4/5, AUTHOR, Book Review, E, Fiction, RATING, Read in 2019, SERIES, Stephanie Plum

Review: Twelve Sharp by Janet Evanovich

Twelve Sharp
by Janet Evanovich

Twelve Sharp

 

Copyright: 2006

Pages: 322

Read: June 12 – 16, 2019

Rating: 4/5

Source: Goodwill

 

Blurb: While chasing down the usual cast of miscreants and weirdos, Stephanie discovers that a crazed woman is stalking her.

The woman dresses in black, carries a 9mm Glock, and has a bad attitude and a mysterious connection to dark and dangerous Carlos Manoso … street name, Ranger.

The action turns deadly serious, and Stephanie goes from hunting skips to hunting a murderer.

Ranger needs Stephanie for more reasons than he can say. And now, the two are working together to find a killer, rescue a missing child, and stop a lunatic from raising the body count. When Stephanie Plum and Ranger get too close for comfort, vice cop Joe Morelli (her on-again, off-again boyfriend) steps in. Will the ticking clock stop at the stroke of twelve … or will a stranger in the wind find a way to stop Stephanie Plum … forever?


Review: I won’t lie. These books are not much more than some brain candy – total fluff books. But they’re usually entertaining so I try and read 1 or 2 of them a year – much more than that and I burn out.

This particular installment I feel was a little better than the last few. First, Stephanie went an entire book without having her car blow up. That’s got to be the end of like an 8 book streak. And then we see Ranger having a lot more of a presence in this book. Rather than flitting in and out as he pleases he’s got quite a bit role in this book. It was interesting to see the book from his perspective, but I’m solidly in the Joe Morelli camp.

So overall an installment that didn’t necessarily leave me in stitches, but I wasn’t rolling my eyes either. Decent.

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3.5/5, AUTHOR, Book Review, E, Fiction, RATING, Read in 2019, SERIES, Stephanie Plum

Review: Eleven on Top by Janet Evanovich

Eleven on Top
by Janet Evanovich

Eleven on Top

 

Copyright: 2005

Pages: 321

Read: Feb. 10 – 20, 2019

Rating: 3.5/5

Source: Goodwill

 

Blurb: Stephanie Plum is thinking her career as a fugitive apprehension agent has run its course. She’s been shot at, spat at, cussed at, fire-bombed, and attacked by dogs. Stephanie thinks it’s time for a change. So she quits. She wants something safe and normal. But the kind of trouble she had at the bail bonds office can’t compare to the kind of trouble she finds herself facing now…

Stephanie is stalked by a maniac returned from the grave for the sole purpose of putting her into a burial plot of her own. He’s killed before, and he’ll kill again if given the chance. Caught between staying far away from the bounty hunter business and staying alive, Stephanie re-examines her life and the possibility that being a bounty hunter is the solution rather than the problem. After disturbingly brief careers at the button factory, Kan Klean Dry Cleaners, and Cluck-in-a-Bucket, Stephanie takes an office position in security, working for Ranger, the sexiest, baddest bounty hunter and businessman on two continents. Tempers and temperatures rise as competition s up between the two men in her life – her on-again, off-again boyfriend, tough Trenton cop Joe Morelli, and Ranger. Can Stephanie Plum take the heat? Can you? Ranger.


Review: Stephanie Plum just can’t keep herself out of trouble. It’s rather ridiculous when a reader thinks back about how many times her car is blown up over the course of the first 11 books. Yet for some reason, it still works each and every time.

This particular installment saw Stephanie quit bounty hunting. I kind of liked the change in career. I secretly hope that she continuous on with Ranger’s company – I think it adds a new and interesting  dynamic to the series and I look forward to seeing where it goes from here.

Overall I found this particular installment to be strong, interesting and fun. It definitely makes me look forward to the 12th book!

4/5, AUTHOR, Book Review, E, Fiction, RATING, Read in 2018, SERIES, Stephanie Plum

Review: Ten Big Ones by Janet Evanovich

Ten Big Ones
by Janet Evanovich

Ten Big Ones

 

Copyright: 2004

Pages: 319

Read: Aug 22 – 27, 2018

Rating: 4/5

Source: Goodwill

 

Blurb: Swing off the Jersey Turnpike and you’ll be in bounty hunter Stephanie Plum’s neighborhood. You’ll know it because all hell will be breaking loose. Not that she looks for trouble – it just seems to follow her. In Ten Big Ones it explodes at a deli, and when Stephanie pegs a robber as a member of a vicious Trenton gang, they peg her as dead. Vice cop Joe Morelli fears she’s in way too deep – even with the help of crime-solving, cross-dressing bus driver Sally Sweet, and Stephanie’s friend Lula riding shotgun as backup. With a notorious killer on her tail, Stephanie figures the best hideout is Ranger’s secret lair…


Review: It had been about a year since the last time I had read a Stephanie Plum novel. I read quite a few of them in a relatively short time period and as a result, kind of burned out on them. So I knew I needed to take a break before I picked another one up. I’m glad that I made that decision, because I ended up really loving this book!

I cannot tell you how funny this particular installment is. I mean it was a laugh a minute!  Sure there are some roll-your-eyes moments (like when Stephanie has another car blown up…) but for the most part this one was just a really fun romp! And then there was the addition of Sally Sweet – what a hoot he is! And Ranger … the mystery of that man just oozes off the page…

Overall I’m really glad that I read this one; I really enjoyed it and it has definitely renewed my interest in this series!

3.5/5, AUTHOR, Book Review, E, Nonfiction, Presidential Reading Challenge, RATING, Read in 2018

Review: His Excellency: George Washington by Joseph J. Ellis

His Excellency: George Washington
by Joseph J. Ellis

His Excellency

Copyright: 2004

Pages: 275

Read: Jan. 24-30, 2018

Rating: 3.5/5

Source: Paperbackswap

Blurb: To this landmark biography of our first president, Joseph J. Ellis brings the exacting scholarship, shrewd analysis, and lyric rose that have made him one of the premier historians of the Revolutionary era. Training his lens on a figure who sometimes seems as remote as his effigy on Mount Rushmore, Ellis assesses George Washington as a military and political leader and a man whose “statue-like solidity” concealed volcanic energies and emotions.

Here is the impetuous young officer whose miraculous survival in combat half-convinced him that he could not be killed. Here is the free-spending landowner whose debts to English merchants instilled him with a prickly resentment of imperial power. And here is the general who lost more battles than he won, and the reluctant president to tried to float above the partisan feuding to an understanding not only of its subject but also of the nation he brought into being.


Review: With this book I embark on my presidential reading challenge!

I chose this book to start with because it appeared to be a short, all-encompassing biography. I figured it would give me a good decent background before I really got started into the meat of George Washington’s life. And for the most part, this book definitely fulfilled that. But it definitely left me wanting more. There were a lot of places that I really wanted more information on, but I realize that it’s not feasible to put every single thing about his entire life into one small volume such as this.

The writing itself in this book was extremely good. There were some dry parts, but those usually occurred when there was discussion of battle details and strategy – those topics just don’t interest me all that much. Overall I found this one easy to read and it kept my interest throughout.

The overall picture that Mr. Ellis paints of George Washington is interesting to me. What I personally came away from it was that he seemed to be a man who wanted everything he did. He claimed to not want to do this or that, namely the presidency, yet he kept coming back. He could have stepped away had he truly wanted to. Yet he was needed. And I think it was that need that kept driving him. His earlier years, he came across as extremely arrogant and not very likable to be honest. But it was his later years that you could definitely see him mature and realize that what he was living was something a lot bigger than anyone at the time could even imagine. His eye never seemed to be on the present, it always seemed to be on the future – I suppose that’s why he edited a lot of his earlier writings…. he wasn’t really writing for his immediate audience; he was writing for future audiences.

Overall, I’m very pleased that this is where I started my presidential reading challenge at. I found it to be a wonderful overview of Washington. It is an easy read, one that will most certainly appeal to casual readers. It also made me realize that my knowledge of the history of the American Revolution is severely lacking (!).

I do believe that going forward from here, when I begin a new president, I will start with something similar to this – a brief, all-encompassing volume that will give me a good starting place. This will be especially helpful with those presidents that I am truly unfamiliar with.

 

3/5, AUTHOR, Book Review, E, Nonfiction, RATING, Read in 2018

Review: The Madness of Mary Lincoln by Jason Emerson

The Madness of Mary Lincoln
by Jason Emerson

The Madness of Mary Lincoln

Copyright: 2007

Pages: 190

Read: Jan. 8-12, 2018

Rating: 3/5

Source: Paperbackswap

 

 

Blurb: In 2005, historian Jason Emerson discovered a steamer trunk formerly owned by Robert Todd Lincoln’s lawyer and stowed in an attic for forty years. The trunk contained a rare find: twenty-five letters pertaining to Mary Todd Lincoln’s life and insanity case, letters assumed long destroyed by the Lincoln family. Mary wrote twenty of the letters herself, more than half from the insane asylum to which her son Robert had her committed, and many in the months and years after.

The Madness of Mary Lincoln is the first examination of Mary Lincoln’s mental illness based on the lost letters, and the first new interpretation of the insanity case in twenty years. This compelling story of the purported insanity of one of American’s most tragic first ladies provides new and previously unpublished materials, including the psychiatric diagnosis of Mary’s mental illness and her lost will.

Emerson charts Mary Lincoln’s mental illness throughout her life and describes how a predisposition to psychiatric illness and a life of mental and emotional trauma led to her commitment to the asylum. The first to state unequivocally that Mary Lincoln suffered from bipolar disorder, Emerson offers a psychiatric perspective on the insanity case based on consultations with psychiatrist experts.

This book reveals Abraham Lincoln’s understanding of his wife’s mental illness and the degree to which he helped keep her stable. It also traces Mary’s life after her husband’s assassination, including her severe depression and physical ailments, the harsh public criticism she endured, the Old Clothes Scandal, and the death of her son Tad.

The Madness of Mary Lincoln is the story not only of Mary, but also of Robert. It details how he dealt with his mother’s increasing irrationality and why it embarrassed his Victorian sensibilities; it explains the reasons he had his mother committed, his response to her suicide attempt, and her plot to murder him. It also shows why and how he ultimately agreed to her release from the asylum eight months early, and what their relationship was like until Mary’s death.

This historical page-turner provides readers for the first time with the lost letters that historians had been in search of for eighty years.


Review: I majored in history in college. I had a few favorite topics in American history, and the time of the Civil War and Abraham Lincoln’s assassination was one of them. I actually wrote a paper in my History of Illinois class about Abraham and Mary’s marriage. So some of the information in this book was relatively familiar to me from my research during my college years.

It has been a long time since I really read a historical non-fiction book with a somewhat critical eye. I took a lot of notes during my reading and one thing that really stuck out to me was the author’s obvious soft spot for Robert Lincoln. Historically, Abraham and Mary’s son has not been shown in a very good light for having his mother committed to the insane asylum. Some people feel like Robert had a sane woman committed just so he could save the embarrassment she was causing to the Lincoln family. Mr. Emerson has a differing opinion, and claims that Robert was just doing his duty to his mother by protecting her.

The student of history must not make conclusions outside of historical context. This is the principal mistake made in regard to Robert Lincoln. His personality, his motivations, have never been considered in their proper Victorian attire, but when they are, and when he is given a fair standard to measure against, there can be no doubt that Robert Lincoln was an honorable man who loved his mother. [p. 155]

It is not unknown the struggles that the Lincoln family endured. Not only did Mary Lincoln have to bury 3 of her 4 children, but she was also right beside her husband when he was shot. I’m not sure anyone would be able to suffer those kinds of losses and come out completely unscathed. Everyone does handle grief differently, but any way you look at it, the losses Mary had to deal with were substantial.

In the span of ten years, the former First Lady had gone from the White House, to a boarding house, to living as a homeless wanderer, and now, to an insane asylum. [p. 71]

Anyone who has read anything on the Lincoln family should have some knowledge of what is known as the “insanity episode” that Mary suffered. I personally feel as if Abraham kept Mary somewhat sane while he was alive. He was really her crutch that kept her from spiraling out of control. When he was gone she lost that crutch and that’s when her downward spiral really came to light. Based on the evidence from his research, Mr. Emerson puts forward Bipolar Disorder as a potential diagnosis from which Mary Lincoln suffered.

Looking at Mary’s early life, one can discern early manifestations of Manic-Depressive Illness (now called Bipolar Disorder), with symptoms of depression, delusions (of persecution, poverty and various somatic ailments), hallucinations, inflated self-esteem, decreased or interrupted sleep, mood swings, and extravagant spending (monomania). [p. 5]

Overall, I felt like this was a well-written, well-researched book. I enjoyed reading it and learned quite a bit. I found it easy to read. I know that this is not what my readers usually see featured on my blog, but I am trying to expand my reading into more non-fiction.

3/5, AUTHOR, Book Review, E, Eve Dallas, Fiction, Mini Review, R, RATING, Read in 2017, SERIES, Stephanie Plum

Mini Reviews: Ceremony in Death & Hard Eight

ceremony-in-deathTitle: Ceremony in Death
Author: J.D. Robb
Read: Feb. 9-15, 2017
Pages: 310
Source: Paperbackswap
Rating: 3/5

Thoughts:  This is the fifth book in the In Death series. I read #4 back in the beginning of 2016. I don’t remember much about it other than that I really liked it. So I was looking forward to dipping back into this series. But this one fell flat for me. It had to deal with Wiccans and witchcraft. Which if you’re a long-time follower of mine, you know that I only sparingly dabble in anything dealing with witchcraft/magic. So my personal feelings on these types of storylines definitely affected my overall opinion of the book. But I will still continue on with the series and hopefully the sixth book will be back on track to what I prefer.


hard-eightTitle: Hard Eight
Author: Janet Evanovich
Read: Feb. 16-24, 2017
Pages: 326
Source: Paperbackswap
Rating: 3/5

Thoughts:  I picked this one up because I needed something light after reading the J.D. Robb book. I read a few of these books last year until I kind of burned out when they started to all feel the same. So I was looking forward to knocking another one of these series books out of the way. Overall it wasn’t a bad book. I will say that Albert Kloughn has to be one of the funniest characters I’ve seen in a book in a while. He definitely made the book much better. But seriously …. how many times can Stephanie’s car get blown up? At this point I can’t help but think that Ms.Evanovich needs to get some new ideas for her books – it’s no longer funny when Stephanie’s car gets blown up … it just makes me roll my eyes at this point.

4/5, AUTHOR, Book Review, E, Fiction, P, RATING, Read in 2016

Review: Invisible by James Patterson & David Ellis

Invisible
by James Patterson & David Ellis

Invisible

Copyright: 2014

Pages: 385

Read: Aug. 26-Aug. 30, 2016

Rating: 4/5

Source: Grandmother

 
Blurb: Everyone thinks Emma Dockery is crazy. Obsessed with finding a link between hundreds of unsolved cases – one of the death of her own sister – Emma has taken leave from her job as an FBI researcher. Now all she has are the newspaper clippings that wallpaper her bedroom, and her recurring nightmares of an all-consuming fire.

Not even Emma’s ex-boyfriend, field agent Harrison “Books” Bookman, believe her claim that these dozens of deaths across the country are connected. That is, until Emma finds a piece of evidence Books can’t ignore. More fatalities are reported by the day – and they’re all inexplicable. No motives, no murder weapon, no suspects. Could one person really be responsible for these unthinkable crimes?


Review:  James Patterson is always my go-to when I need a quick, easy read. And this one fits that bill perfectly. But this one is also extremely interesting! It sucked me in quickly. I really liked Emmy’s character. All she wanted was justice for her twin sister. I really admired her perseverance – even when everyone thought she was crazy.

This book has an ending that I never saw coming. It made the overall book that much more enjoyable. I really enjoy when books throw curve balls!

So overall this is another good James Patterson read. Fun, easy, enjoyable. Definitely recommended!

4/5, AUTHOR, Book Review, E, Fiction, RATING, Read in 2016, SERIES, Stephanie Plum

Review: Seven Up by Janet Evanovich

Seven Up
by Janet Evanovich

Seven Up
Copyright: 2001

Pages: 337

Read: July 15-21, 2016

Rating: 4/5

Source: Used book store

 

 

Blurb: All New Jersey bounty hunter Stephanie Plum has to do is bring in semi-retired bail jumper Eddie DeChooch. For an old man he’s still got a knack for slipping out of sight – and raising hell. How else can Stephanie explain the bullet-riddled corpse in Eddie’s garden? Who else would have a clue as to why two of Stephanie’s friends suddenly vanished? For answers Stephanie has the devil to pay: her mentor, Ranger. The deal? He’ll give Stephanie all the help she needs – if she gives him everything he wants…

As if things weren’t complicated enough, Stephanie’s just discovered her Grandma Mazur’s own unmentionable alliance with Eddie. Add a series of unnerving break-ins, not to mention the bombshell revelation leveled by Stephanie’s estranged sister, and Stephanie’s ready for some good news. Unfortunately, a marriage proposal from Joe Morelli, the love of her life, isn’t quite cutting it. And now – murder, a randy paramour, a wily mobster, death threats, extortion, and a triple kidnapping aside – Stephanie’s really got the urge to run for her life…


Review: I picked this one up to fulfill a Goodreads challenge. I have read books 4-7 so far this year and for the most part have really enjoyed them. They are fun, easy reads. I’m constantly surprised by the messes Stephanie finds herself in. I love the humor in these books, it definitely lightens things up.

Overall, I throughly enjoyed it and am looking forward to reading the eighth installment.

3/5, AUTHOR, Book Review, E, Fiction, RATING, Read in 2013, SERIES, Taylor Jackson

2013.30 REVIEW – Where All the Dead Lie by J.T. Ellison

Where All the Dead Lie
by J.T. Ellison

Copyright: 2011
Pages: 392
Rating: 3/5
Read: July 6 – July 12, 2013
Challenge: No challenge
Yearly count: 30
Format: Print
Source: Personal copy

Blurb: In her showdown with the murderous Pretender, a bullet taken at close range severed the connection between Taylor’s thoughts and speech. Effectively mute, there’s no telling if her voice will ever come back. Trapped in silence, she is surrounded by ghosts – of the past, of friendships and trusts lost … of a lost faith in herself and her motives that night.

When Memphis Highsmythe offers Taylor his home in the Scottish Highlands to recuperate, her fiancé can’t refuse her excitement, no matter his distrust of the man. At first, Memphis’s drafty and singularly romantic castle seems the perfect place for healing. But shortly the house itself surrounds her like a menacing presence. As Taylor’s sense of isolation and vulnerability grows, so too does her grip on reality.

Someone or something is coming after Taylor. But is she being haunted by the dead … or hunted by the living?


Review: This is a hard review for me to write. I am a huge fan of the Taylor Jackson series. But this book left me a little flat. I think my problem with it is that it is nothing like the previous Taylor books. It is completely different and at times I had to wonder what on earth Ms. Ellison was thinking at the time. It really wasn’t until the very end of the book that it felt like we got to actually see the Taylor that the readers know. I wouldn’t say that I necessarily disliked this book, because I really didn’t, but if this is the end of the Taylor Jackson series, I’m not sure that Ms. Ellison did Taylor justice.

I had a big problem with the change in setting. This series has always been set in Nashville, Tennessee. I’ve always liked that – I live about 2.5 hours from Nashville and go down there occasionally. But in this book it is set in Scotland. It felt like it was way out in left field at times too, honestly. There is no doubt that the author definitely did her research in regards to this new setting, but I think it was just too drastic of a change for my liking.

It’s hard not to like Taylor Jackson. I’ve always liked her. And I pitied her in this book, and that’s not something that I ever wanted to do. At the same time I was a little more than frustrated with her. She knew better than to go off to a foreign country with a man like Memphis! I didn’t like what that did to Baldwin … and she didn’t even seem to care at first. It wasn’t until she really got there that she realized that she hadn’t given Baldwin a fair shake in everything.

I don’t know. It’s really hard to explain my feelings on this book. Overall, I’m glad that I read it. But if this is really the last Taylor Jackson book (I don’t know that it is – I just know that Ms. Ellison has taken off with a spin-off series with Sam’s character) I feel like it could have been wrapped up better. But then again, maybe I’m just bummed because I really don’t want Taylor’s series to end. Who knows. I might add that this book could probably be read as a standalone, just because it is so different from the other books, but then you would be spoiling a lot of the storyline with Memphis in the earlier books.

Bottom line: Recommended, but probably only to die-hard fans of this series.

AUTHOR, Book Review, E, Fiction, Read in 2013, READING CHALLENGES 2013, SERIES, Taylor Jackson

2013.15 REVIEW – So Close the Hand of Death by J.T. Ellison

So Close the Hand of Death
by J.T. Ellison

Copyright: 2011
Pages: 406
Read: March 15-24, 2013
Challenge: Off the Shelf 2013
Yearly count: 15
Format: Print
Source: Personal Copy

So Close the Hand of DeathBlurb: It’s a hideous echo of a violent past. Across America, murders are being committed with all the twisted hallmarks of the Boston Strangler, the Zodiac Killer and Son of Sam. The media frenzy explodes and Nashville homicide lieutenant Taylor Jackson knows instantly that The Predator is back … and he’s got helpers.

As The Pretender’s disciples perpetrate their sick homages – stretching police and the FBI dangerously thin – Taylor tries desperately to prepare for their inevitable showdown. And she must do it alone. To be close to her is to be in mortal danger, and she won’t risk losing anyone she loves. But the isolation, the self-doubt and the rising body count are taking their toll – she’s beside herself and ready to snap.

The brilliant psychopath who both adores and despises her is drawing close. Close enough to touch…


Review: I love, love, love the Taylor Jackson series. It’s one that I found a few years back and have read almost all of them – I only lack the latest one (is it the last? I just might cry if it is … but at the same time, I’ll be relieved because I kind of prefer to have some closure to series, not the huge 40+ book long-running ones).

Anyways, I must start this review with stating that if you have never read a book in the Taylor Jackson series, do not start with this one. You will be so confused. You probably won’t like Taylor’s character. You have to start from the beginning to really understand this book and who she is in this installment.

That being said, I think that this is the best book in the series that I have read. It’s so raw. It’s so eye-opening. It’s just a perfect blend of everything I love in  my mystery/thriller books.

The storyline is so fast paced in this book. It really starts off and never lets up. I was constantly turning the pages trying to figure out what was going to happen. And the end-game between Taylor and The Pretender is not at all how I expected things to happen.

And I must say that I really like the sound of the next book in this series. I don’t have a copy of it, but I’m definitely on the hunt. I think it’s going to be a very good installment. I’m interested in seeing what happens between Taylor and Baldwin … there’s a definite disconnect after the events of this book, and it will be interesting to see what happens between them.

Final Thoughts: I can’t say enough good things about this book. Or the entire series, really. So –  read this series. End of story.