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Sometimes books are better than tv

April 21, 2009

So, I haven’t been watching much tv lately because I have become completely and totally obsessed with a series of books. Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum books, to be precise. I’ve devoured the first five books at a rate that’s getting somewhat frightening for my wallet, and there are at least a dozen or so left to read. They are absolutely delicious.

I’m honestly not sure what makes these books remarkable. The writing is decent but not about to win any Nobel or Booker prizes. The mysteries are pretty easy to solve around the same time the intrepid heroine puts the pieces together. Evanovich has a very snappy writing style that is chock full of verbs, and dialogue that falls naturally on your reading ears. The first book was fair, not great, but the following books have hit a stride. At times laugh-out-loud funny (trust me, I’ve been giggling like a maniac reading these things), always fast-paced, and often carrying an undercurrent of romantic intrigue with just enough steam to get your heart pounding. There are no throbbing members in sight, thank god.

The heroine, Stephanie Plum, is likable and down-to-earth. I normally shy away from anything that smacks of chick-lit; I can’t handle the neurotic inner workings of women who carry on about marriage and Manolos. I also can’t abide by heroines who spend all their time complaining about how very average and unattractive they are while it’s obvious that every male character that lays eyes on her falls instantly in lust with her (hello, Bella Swan, I’m looking at you). Plum is refreshingly not a cookie-cutter chick lit lady. She is, instead, a hilariously incompetent bounty hunter with an incredible amount of luck (ah, the good fortune of fiction — I suppose a rather more believable incompetent bounty hunter would have died in the first book, which doesn’t do much for a book franchise).

The books’ popularity can most likely be explained by a couple of the hottest men in fiction. Joe Morelli and Ranger, both drop dead gorgeous (of course), both just bad boy enough to make you weak in the knees, with a hint that maybe there’s some heart lurking under their mystique and danger. What’s more, they don’t often charge in to save the day at the last minute. While my inner feminist cringed at the first few mentions of Plum going out running to “keep off the fat,” she actually tends to extricate herself from her terrible situations and doesn’t do too much damsel-in-distressing. Later books have Plum reveling in chocolate cake, fried chicken, and, well, any food that comes within reach; I can let the occasional moaning and groaning about potential fat slide a bit. Besides, I’ll fully admit that the only reason I hit the gym on a semi-regular basis is so I can eat cupcakes and pizza without guilt.

In short, I can’t get enough of these books. They are delightful escapism. If the Twilight books (which I loved) are like Twinkies filled with crack, Evanovich’s books are like chocolate covered strawberries. You can’t stop at just one, and hey — there are worse things you could be consuming.

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