Review: “One for the Money” (Stephanie Plum #1) by Janet Evanovich

A review by Vanessa

This book is from my own personal library; this review takes a look at the popular novel through the lens of the major motion picture it became.

Stephanie Plum is no stranger to desperation. It’s not like she hasn’t been through the ringer before, but when she loses her job as a lingerie buyer and is forced to go to work for her perverted cousin Vinnie at his bail bonds office, she knows she has hit a new low. But when a big FTA (failure to appear) hits Vinnie’s desk, Stephanie thinks things might just be looking up. The FTA is the man who took Stephanie’s virginity, Joe Morelli, and she’s got a big score to settle with him. Tracking him down and dragging his ass back to jail is the perfect opportunity to do just that, and make some big cash as a bounty hunter. Of course she has no skill-set, no training, no tools, and no cash to get what she needs to get started. Blackmailing her cousin into letting her take the case is just the first step. If she wants to make a real go of this new career, she’ll have to get serious. Enter Ranger. The guy is big and scary to the max, with attitude, gorgeous eyes, and muscles for days; but he’s the real deal, and he’s willing to mentor Stephanie so she has a chance at catching Morelli. Now all she has to do is survive telling her traditional Italian family that she’s about the take on a job where she has to start carrying a gun.
Things get crazy, hilarious, and terrifying quickly when the case surrounding Morelli’s arrest turns out to be far more complicated than Stephanie thought. Luck is on her side when she finds Morelli fast, but doesn’t have the clout to bring him in. Her only option is to follow the evidence, and the trail of criminal activity that Morrelli is tracking to try and clear his name. Maybe she can catch him unaware and force him to bring himself in. But getting more involved means getting into the line of fire of a psychotic murderer, some big time drug runners, and her crazy grandmother who is unnaturally fascinated with Stephanie’s new line of work. She has got to get Morrelli to come in before someone gets really hurt. She just hopes it isn’t her. But maybe with a whole lot of dumb luck, a little strangely accurate intuition, and the right timing, she’ll get her man in the end.
This book is the first in a long series that got its start back in the mid 90’s, and was made into a movie in 2012. For a book series that now spans multiple decades, it’s no secret why it’s still going: Evanovich is a master of character writing. She weaves the story together in sometimes interestingly haphazard ways, but always the characters that drive the action are multi-layered, unfailing entertaining, and admirably lovable or the kind you love to hate. Stephanie Plum is the perfectly inept heroine of her own story; brassy, bold, unpredictable, totally independent, and completely unprepared for everything she gets herself into. And boy, does she get herself into some crazy stuff, often with her hilarious Grandma Mazur in tow. This book made me fall in love with Stephanie and all her wacky hi-jinks, so I was of course ecstatic to learn that it was being made into a movie. But as always when a favorite novel goes Hollywood, there is bound to be some disappointment.
Overall, I have to say I was impressed with how the movie was able to modernize so many aspects of the story, without ruining the essence of what made the original story so great. Throwing cell phones, modern technology, and an update to Stephanie’s iconic fashion habits into the mix could have played out of tune with a story that was written in the 90’s, but they did a good job. What was lacking was the backbone of what made Evanovich’s writing so great; the strength of the characters. Katherine Heigl is no slouch in the acting business, and I certainly appreciated the independence, determination, and attitude that she tried to bring to the Stephanie Plum character. But there is a certain element to Stephanie, an untenable unpredictable ability to bullshit her way through almost anything, that was lacking in her movie persona. Morelli, played by Jason O,Mara, was a bit more satisfying with his passionate anger, and lust filled attitude, but even he was bit too much fiery Irish-man and not enough smooth-and-simmering Italian.
But I was most let-down by Grandma Mazur. The lovely Debbie Reynolds is a wonderful actress, and her brashness on screen was entertaining, but her liveliness was no match for the Grandma Mazur of my imagination; the one who sports spandex shorts to match Stephanie’s coolness factor and somehow pulls it off better than she does; is innocently fascinated with Stephanie’s gun right up to and including when she shoots the gumpy off the chicken at family dinner; and is fiercely loved and protected by Stephanie who feels they are kindred spirits. I still enjoyed seeing the personification of my favorite characters on screen, but I do hope one day they bring it back as a TV series, and spend a lot of time picking out the perfect people to capture the fantastic essence of the characters.

4.5 out of 5 stars for the book
3 out of 5 stars for the movie

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Compare and Contrast: “Ella the Slayer”by A.W. Exley

"Ella The Slayer" b A.W. Exley

A review by Domoni. Read Maria’s take here!

In the early 20th century, the flu epidemic tore through England killing many. As the people try to recover from such a huge loss, a new plague comes in to wreak havoc on the people. Those who died are coming home. Much like the pest that many blamed for spreading the flu, their bites  are spreading this new plague. The country is overrun but their morals have many believing that killing these previously dead people will  send their souls into damnation. When Ella kills one, she opens the door to being the one damned soul in her village that can kill the vermin and save everyone else. Until the duke returns to his family lands to lead the war on the undead. Spoilers will appear in this review

I was excited to read this book. A reinterpretation of Cinderella with zombies, it was right up my ally. It was pretty clear within the first couple of chapters this book was like someone took Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and combined it with Ever After: A Cinderella Story.  Ella’s Mother died when she was young. Her father remarries a cruel woman only interested in money. He returns from the war in a near vegetative state leaving the stepmother to relegate Ella to a servants status. When Ella accidentally meets and nearly decapitates the Duke, she hides her real identity from him. Though of course it wouldn’t be much of a story if he didn’t pursue her. Fascinated by a woman willing to battle the undead he begins to attempt to court Ella. They bond over their love of fast cars and the ability to battle the vermin and eventually fall for each other.

Ella’s stepmother is of course scheming to have her eldest foul daughter marry the Duke and Ella must hide her forbidden love from her family. Typical cinderella shenanigans ensue and in the end, of course Ella gets her man. Then they must race to battle the Undead herd and its hive-like queen. After the battle ends, a dirty and resolved Ella returns home to evict her evil stepmother and finds her trying to murder her father. She defends him and in the process infects her stepmother with queen zombie toxic blood. This is where the story really lost me.  In what appears to be an attempt to lead into a sequel she lets her evil infected stepmother leave to go out and munch on random people and none of the soldiers or people who just eradicated the horde stop her.

I wanted to love this book but it had so many similarities to the two stories I mentioned above and quite a few moments that made you question the characters and the author herself that I am not sure it will bring me back for a second book. The first half of the book was great but the second half left me with a lingering disappointment.

My rating: 2/5 stars.

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