"Give me books, French wine, fruit, fine weather, and a little music played out of doors by somebody I do not know." - John Keats

"You're not allowed to say anything about books because they're books and books are, you know, God." - Nick Hornby

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Reviews #42 - 44: Manhunt, Smitten, & Back to the Bedroom

I love Stephanie Plum, and sometimes I go back and read Janet Evanovich's earlier works. It's fun to see where she started out, and her "red-hot screwball comedies" are fluff in the purest form. And sometimes, between science projects and history projects and volleyball games and basketball practice and, you know, my stuff too, this mama needs some mindless fluff.

Manhunt finds us in the wilds of Alaska in a tiny town outside of Fairbanks, where Alexandra Scott, her giant dog Bruno, and her tiny little two door convertible have just arrived. Alex has left behind her high powered job in New York, trading her starkly modern condo for a rustic cabin in the woods. The cabin's a little more rustic than she anticipates, though, and her tiny car can't handle the unpaved driveway, and she doesn't know how to chop firewood. Enter her neighbor, the handsome but prickly Michael Casey, who is a bush pilot, and, as near as I could tell, is independently wealthy.
Michael feels like he needs to help Alex, but Alex is stubborn and wants to do it herself. Soon, though, she succumbs to the temptation of his coffee and indoor plumbing, and before she knows it, she's succumbing to the temptation of Michael himself.

Smitten is the story of Lizabeth Kane, the newly single mother of two rambunctious young boys. Recently divorced from her husband, who sounds like a real peach, by the way, she is setting up camp in a ramshackle old house and desperate for a job that lets her stay close to the boys. She finds that job with contractor Matt Hallahan, who reluctantly takes her on as a carpenter's assistant in a house he's rehabbing. Lizabeth proves pretty handy with a hammer, though, and before long, she's not only proved herself a better than average carpenter, she's also organized Matt's pigsty of an office, and Matt's fallen head over heels for her. Throw in a weird guy who flashes the neighbors in the dark of night and Lizabeth's Aunt Elsie, who is definitely an early version of Grandma Mazur, and you've got vintage Evanovich.

In Back to the Bedroom, we have David Dodd, a self-described big kid who loves gadgets, toys, and comic books, and Kathryn Finn, a professional cellist with an extreme type A personality. When a piece of a helicopter falls through Kate's roof, she finally meets David, and the two could not be more different. David offers to help Kate - she needs a place to stay as it's raining and there's a giant hole in her roof - and Kate reluctantly agrees. Of course, they butt heads and kind of can't stand each other, but when strange things begin happening at Kate's house and David realizes she's in danger, he goes in to full protective mode. Then Kate's ex shows up, further complicating things, and there's also a missing cat, several replacement cats, a broken leg, and a gun-toting old lady.

None of these are groundbreaking stories, and they're not as good as Evanovich's later efforts with Stephanie, Ranger, and Morelli, or her series with Diesel and Lizzy, but it's fun to see her trying out different characters and recognizing early versions of the ones we've come to know and love. Worth a $1.99 download or a check out from the library for sure.

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