CB Book#2: Ten Big Ones by Janet Evanovich

                Stephanie Plum is a bounty hunter. She’s not a very good one, but she’s tenacious. Ten Big Ones is the tenth in Janet Evanovich’s long running series about Stephanie Plum’s bounty hunting adventures. The usual cast of characters includes Lula, the ex-hooker turned file clerk. She files her nails more than paperwork. There is Grandma Mazur, Stephanie’s grandmother who packs heat and goes to wakes as a hobby. There is also Stephanie’s cousin, Vinnie the bail bonder who is rumored to have had a romantic relationship with a duck. Stephanie’s two love interests are Joe Morelli, the cop and Ranger, the general bad-ass. There are a handful of other silly side characters as well.

                In Ten Big Ones, Stephanie pisses off the local gang so they send a mercenary after her. She must hide from the mercenary while catching her FTA’s (failure to appears). One of the FTA’s is a dieting woman who stands up a Frito truck. To keep up her energy, Stephanie and Lula eat a dangerous amount of donuts. Seriously, she and several other characters have an unhealthy relationship with food.

                There’s a lot not to like about a Stephanie Plum book. If you’re looking for something remotely believable, don’t bother. This series is cartoonish at best. But there is a lot to like about Stephanie Plum too. She’s independent. She’s not the kind of woman whose ultimate goal is finding a man. Her hamster keeps her company just fine. In fact, her goals don’t usually extend much further than finding her next F.T.A. Besides that, Evanovich’s novels are quick and easy to read. They only take a day or two. They are also genuinely funny. True, they are simple books and very little depth or thought is involved, but sometimes books can just be for fun and Ten Big Ones is just for fun.

The Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver

A few years ago while I was living in Anchorage, AK, a good friend of mine found out that her favorite author would be speaking at the University of Alaska and she asked me to go with her. This author was Barbara Kingsolver. I had seen her name around the bookstore, but had never read any of her books. At the lecture, Kingsolver spoke a lot about environmentalism–buy locally grown food, stick with organic, pesticides are bad. This lecture can be heard throughout the entirety of The Prodigal Summer.

This novel takes place in Zebulon Valley, a valley in rural southern Appalachia. There are three separate stories centering around three separate people. The first character is Lusa. Lusa is an entomologist from Lexington, KY who after marrying a farmer moves to his farm in Zebulon Valley. Her husband unexpectedly dies one day, leaving her with the farm. While grieving her husband, Lusa has to get along in a community that she doesn’t quite fit into and figure out how to make a life on a farm.

The next character is Deanna Wolfe. Deanna is a forty-something woman who has basically exiled herself from the world of humans for the past two years. She lives and works in the national forest just outside of the valley. It’s here that she meets Eddie Bondo, a sheep herder from Wyoming who is traveling the country while hunting coyotes. Deanna just happened to write her Master’s thesis on why coyotes are the most awesomest animal ever and makes it her goal to get Eddie to agree. If Eddie has a reason behind his coyote-hate besides the fact that they eat sheep, we never hear it. This is a common theme with most of the side characters.

The third story is centered around Garnett Walker. Garnett is a cantankerous septuagenarian who believes the world ought to be a certain way. He also believes rock and roll is a fad that will die soon. He and his neighbor, an elderly woman named Nannie, butt heads constantly, but are probably each others’ best friend.

I have to say that I have mixed feelings about The Prodigal Summer. Kingsolver is obviously a great writer. She presented a clear and precise picture of small town Appalachia. Her descriptions of the smells, sounds, and sights of Zebulon county were absolutely beautiful. There were times while reading the book that I felt like I was going on vacation there. The main characters were developed and interesting people. The stories, on the other hand, were not very interesting to me personally. Every story involves learning and teaching others about being better environmentalists. Don’t get me wrong, I think environmentalism is great, but sometimes I wanted to tell the characters, “Hey, you guys are great, really, but could you stop lecturing me and do something?”