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Reviews of books in a series, with a focus on urban fantasy.
Other genres include mystery, paranormal romance, and crime thrillers.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Sizzling Sixteen (Stephanie Plum) by Janet Evanovich


Where do I start? I suppose I should start by saying that I once loved the Stephanie Plum series, and I think I'm only hanging on because I so want Stephanie to get together with Ranger, and I'm afraid I'll miss it.

But I'm beginning to face the fact that Ms. Evanovich is just going to keep Stephanie in stasis, as is, forever. She's as much as told us this, there was once a question on her site about how much Stephanie has aged, and she says Stephanie is like Homer Simpson, she stays the same age forever.

I want characters in a series to grow and learn and change, and that's not happening here. Sizzling Sixteen was slightly different than previous books, as the main plot in this book was in saving Vinnie, and there wasn't a lot of bounty hunting. And Connie got involved, which should have given us lots of laughs (remember when they kidnapped the bad guy and took him to the coast to 'rough him up' and none of them could do it?). Unfortunately, even bringing Connie in didn't help. I laughed one time in Sizzling Sixteen, and it was more of a chuckle than a laugh.

There were a few good moments, all involving Ranger, and I'll put them behind spoiler text for those who don't want to be spoiled.

Ranger admits he loves Stephanie, he's a little more touchy feely with her than he has been in the past, and there are a few kisses. But I seriously think this is just teaser fare, designed to get us to buy the next book. We end the book with even more ambivalence than usual between which guy she may end up choosing. (Select the spoiler text to view it.)

Here's the blurb:

Trenton, New Jersey, bounty hunter Stephanie Plum has inherited a “lucky” bottle from her Uncle Pip. Problem is, Uncle Pip didn’t specify if the bottle brought good luck or bad luck....

Vinnie, of Vincent Plum Bail Bonds, has run up a gambling debt of $786,000 with mobster
Bobby Sunflower and is being held until the cash can be produced. Nobody else will pay to get Vinnie back, leaving it up to Stephanie, office manager Connie, and file clerk Lula to raise the money if they want to save their jobs.

Being in the business of tracking down people, Stephanie, Lula, and Connie have an advantage in finding Vinnie. If they can rescue him, it will buy them some time to raise the cash.

Finding a safe place to hide Vinnie turns out to be harder than raising $786,000. Vinnie’s messing up local stoner Walter “Moon Man” Dunphy's vibe and making Stephanie question genetics.

Between a bonds office yard sale that has the entire Burg turning out, a plan that makes Mooner’s Hobbit-Con look sane, and Uncle Pip’s mysterious bottle, they just might raise enough money to save Vinnie and the business from ruin.

Saving Vincent Plum Bail Bonds means Stephanie can keep being a bounty hunter. In Trenton, this involves hunting down a man wanted for polygamy, a Turnpike toilet paper bandit, and a drug dealer with a pet alligator named Mr. Jingles.

The job of bounty hunter comes with perks in the guise of Trenton’s hottest cop, Joe Morelli, and the dark and dangerous, Ranger. With any luck at all, Uncle Pip’s lucky bottle will have Stephanie getting lucky---the only question is . . . with whom?

Sizzling Sixteen . . . so hot, the pages might spontaneously combust!

Oh, the lucky bottle thing? That part was just silly.

As for my usual rundown... the plot is shaky at best, the dialogue is good, pacing has some problems, and there is no character development because we've known these characters a long time.The characters don't grow, they don't change, there is no further development. Nada. Zilch.

It takes a lot of skill to create a book that makes you laugh out loud until you cry - one that makes you lightheaded from lack of oxygen because you're laughing too hard to pull enough oxygen into your body. Janet Evanovich has that talent and that skill. She did it for a long time and I fell in love with her writing, and with her characters. But it's been a long time since I've seen it in the Plum series. There is a fine line between funny and silly, and a few of the last four or five books have gone past silly and into ridiculous. Sizzling Sixteen didn't head completely into ridiculous, so it was a little better than some of the more recent books, but it's still a far cry from the early books. And that's too bad.

I'm giving Sizzing Sixteen a 6 of 10, and I'm dropping the series down to 6 of 10.

One For the Money (1994)
Two For the Dough (1996)
Three to Get Deadly (1997)
Four to Score (1998)
High Five (1999)
Hot Six (2000)
Seven Up (2001)
Hard Eight (2002)
Visions of Sugar Plums (2003) (don't bother)
To the Nines (2003)
Ten Big Ones (2004)
Eleven on Top (2005)
Twelve Sharp (2006)
Plum Lovin' (2007) (don't bother)
Lean Mean Thirteen (2007)
Plum Lucky (January 2008) (don't bother)
Fearless Fourteen (June 2008)
Plum Spooky (January 2009)
Finger Lickin' Fifteen (June 2009)
Sizzling Sixteen (June 2010)


  1. The fact of the matter is, Stephanie can't evolve as long as she's with Morelli, and no one else can evolve if she doesn't (since it's her point of view). One thing I noticed about this book, which made me dislike it, was how Stephanie and Morelli both have one thing in common--they love tearing her down. They don't think she's good enough. They think there's something wrong with her. Morelli doesn't like Stephanie, and as of 16, Stephanie doesn't like herself. I have about 60 pages to go, and I can't bring myself to read anymore. I don't want to read anymore about how Stephanie is stupid and worthless and should just give up. That's not my idea of a good time. JE is catering to the anti-fans, and it breaks my heart. I used to love this series.

  2. I am curious to read out the sizzling sixteen and i am hoping that it will be one of the great book.

  3. Morelli wants to marry someone like his mom - someone who will buy bread when it gets low. Someone who bakes lasagna and makes desert. I do believe he loves Stephanie, the problem is that he keeps trying to turn Stephanie into something she's likely never going to be - a nurturing home-maker.

    Ranger loves her for who she is.

    I keep waiting for Stephanie to figure it out. But she's more concerned about which guy society says would be the better match.

  4. Kirsten - My opinion is that books 13 through 16 should have been combined into 2 really fast books instead of 4 really slow ones. The pacing has become glacial. I have less than a hundred pages to go (still not finished) and I've not even met the bad guy or seen him do any real damage. That's not good.

    As for Stephanie, I think the problem is more on Janet's end. She knows that Ranger sells books. End the series, end the cash cow.

  5. I just finished 16 and I won't be buying 17. This was my favorite series and now it just needs to end. It was just hard to read. Ranger was a different person. I loved that he was a man of few words,and in 16 he said more then Morelli. I was hoping for more Morelli in 16, I thought they were actually have a discussion when she mentioned that she was tired of bounty hunting, but no go. Nothing gets resolved. I was really disappoited!

  6. I didn't like Finger Licken' Fifteen at all, and Sizzling Sixteen wasn't much better. After 16 years with this character, I wonder if Janet is getting bored. I love the character of Stephanie, but it's time to see growth. Make her a couple of years older and wiser. And damn, can't the woman at least get a decent paycheck? Does she have to always be broke, undecided and insecure. What was once endearing about the character is now just plain annoying. Janet forgets that the readers are getting older, we want to see change and growth, while the character still keeps some of her quirky flaws.

    And for God's sake, sleep with Ranger already. It's getting stupid to keep two guys fawning after her for ten years.

    My only hope is that the burning down of the bonds office opens the door to changes in the series and character growth. How much longer can Stephanie be a complete loser?

    By the way, the magic bottle twist...NOT FUNNY.

  7. I enjoy these novels for so many different reasons. It is hard for me to narrow down a specific piece or element of Janet Evanovich’s work with the Stephanie Plum series that I can start with as my number one. So I am going to be bold and different today and just list the top 16 reasons why I, Giovanni Gelati of Gelati’s Scoops, don’t just enjoy, but love Sizzling Sixteen and Janet Evanovich’s style