Thursday, July 26, 2012

33. Wicked Appetite. Janet Evanovich fans...right this way

Stephanie Plum Lizzy Tucker gets a superpower!

The first book of a new series centered on Diesel, a handsome, mysterious fellow with unusual talents, who is on a quest to find the Seven Stones of Power.

Life in Marblehead has had a pleasant predictability, until Diesel arrives. Rumor has it that a collection of priceless ancient relics representing the Seven Deadly Sins have made their way to Boston’s North Shore. Partnered with pastry chef Lizzy Tucker, Diesel bullies and charms his way through historic Salem to track them down—and his criminal mastermind cousin Gerewulf Grimorie. The black-haired, black-hearted Wulf is on the hunt for the relic representing gluttony. Caught in a race against time, Diesel and Lizzy soon find out that more isn’t always better, as they battle Wulf and the first of the deadly sins.

Giving it the benefit of the doubt due to my great enjoyment of the Stephanie Plum series, I found this first instalment of the Lizzy and Diesel series, well....okay.
Written with a  paranormal twist, it is very similar to the Stephanie Plum series.  The cast of characters includes Lizzy Tucker, a sometimes uncoordinated, unlucky in love, quirky pastry chef who finds herself out of her depth in a supernatural treasure hunt. Perhaps in an intentional bid to attract fans from that other series, Evanovich has written Lizzy to be not-so-different from the more well known Stephanie.  If the formula is working, why mess with it?
Cue the entrance of  a tall, built-like-a-tank sexy heartthrob with a killer smile, a doctorate in flirting and the less than subtle name of Diesel.  Diesel, as in strong, tough, and hot!  Add in the quirky, spell-casting sidekick, a mysterious pet cat and a town full of odd characters and you have successfully moved from Stephanie's 'the burb' to Lizzy's Salem, Mass.

art by Jesse Vital… V1TAL

Wulf turned his head toward Diesel and looked amused but didn't go so far as a smile. His features were sharper than Diesel's.  Diesel's eyebrows were fierce, and Wulf's eyebrows were raven wings.  Wulf's nose was straight, his mouth was not as wide as Diesel's but oddly sensuous, his skin was ghostly pale.
...Wulf glanced at my hand. "you're hanging out with a woman wearing my brand."
"Cows get branded," Diesel said. "Women, no. And she's with me."
"for now, cousin."
"We'll see," Wulf said.
His eyes locked onto mine, and for a long moment, I was held captive with no clue to his thoughts.What I knew for certain was that I saw power and passion.  I stepped back into Diesel, relieved when I felt him pressed into my back, his hand at my waist.
"I should be moving along," I said, making an effort not to gasp for air, praying that my voice wasn't shaking. "The monkey is waiting."
Omigod, I thought. Did I just say the monkey is waiting to the liege lord of evil? I'm such a dork!

Parallels to her earlier series aside - and there are many - I did enjoy Evanovich's Wicked Appetite.  She continues to deliver laugh out loud moments and a tasty mental image of the Diesel character.

My only real criticism is that it seems, overall, to be a weaker novel.  This may be due to how quickly Lizzy accepts what is happening around her: two strange men show up and start telling her what to do, they seem to have magical abilities, and she jumps right into following one of them around pursuing their, now mutual, quest for could-end-the-world-if-in-the-wrong-hands stones.  Oh there is plenty of protesting and thoughts filled with doubt, but it feels like obligatory posturing rather than a true WTF is happening reaction.  We readers know that Lizzy is going to join forces with Diesel and that her wacky entourage will be along for the ride.  I felt like I missed a chapter at the beginning of the novel, before all the spell casting, mystical abilities and poofing out of sight villains were accepted as part of everyday life.

That said, yes, I WILL be picking up the next in the series.  After all, I like a book that can make me laugh out loud and  has a six foot tall hero with a wry sense of humour.  Plus there's a one-eyed cat...although, I could do without the monkey.


  1. To get further into this series with Lizzy and Diesel, it might help to find out more about Diesel.

    Diesel first appeared in the little Stephanie Plum Between the Numbers novellas Visions of Sugar Plums, Plum Lovin', Plum Lucky, and Plum Spooky (a full-length novel that time).

    All those books were tied to various holidays like Christmas, Valentine's Day, St. Patrick's Day, and Halloween.

    They also helped establish who Diesel is (an Unmentionable who can appear and disappear at will amongst other paranormal talents) and who Gerwulf Grimoire is (Diesel's evil brother who is a bit of a showboat, preferring to vanish in a cloud of smoke when he mysteriously departs.)

    There is not much explanation why Diesel then hooks up with Lizzy. I was hoping Janet would do more Between The Numbers novels (like Plum Pudding for Thanksgiving maybe or Plum Loco for Cinco de Mayo just to name two I came up with).

    But I also see now that introducing Diesel and Wulf with Stephani Plum first helped lay the groundwork for the paranormal Lizzy & Diesel series.

    You're right about the similarities to the Stephanie Plum novels. I too first thought Wicked Appetite was basically Stephanie Plum lite.

    But the characters grew on me, as they did with Stephanie Plum and the Florida-set novels featuring Sam Hooker and Alexandra Barnaby, Metro Girl, Motor Mouth, and to a lesser extent the Trouble Maker graphic novels.

    I wish Janet would write a few more in that Barnaby & Hooker series, but return to regular novels and dispense with the graphic novel thing.

    Loved the storyline but just am not a fan of the graphic novel gimmick. I would have loved Trouble Maker as a regular novel. I got the feeling Janet's daughter was going to transition into authoring that series full-time but...hasn't seemed like that has happened yet.

    It does appear that writer Phoef Sutton may eventually take over the Lizzy & Diesel series. Janet wrote Wicked Business as the next novel in that series herself, then since brought Phoef in to help her write Wicked Charms the third novel in that series that seems to get better as it has gone along.

    As an aspiring novelist myself, I started two fan fiction novels based on Diesel first and narrated by him and then one based on Ranger, which I'm having him narrate, also.

    The working title for THAT novel is The OTHER Man in Black, referring to not only country legend Johnny Cash but also to Ranger's own tendency to wear black as the head of Rangeman, Inc. Security.

    Joe Morelli is also featured heavily, as he is in the throes of retiring from the police force but wants to buy into Ranger's company as Joe sees how lucrative Rangeman is for Ranger and that he has a chance to do better for himself and his retirement, but also is in the throes of asking Stephanie to marry him and settle down to domestic bliss finally and wants to beef up his police retirement pension in the process.

    Anyway. My intent when I started the Diesel novel was to tie all of Janet's characters together. I had Wulf disappearing from Jersey and showing up at the Florida race track where Alex & Sam worked together, then was going to have him vanish again and reappear in Marblehead with Lizzy & Diesel.

    I also intended to show that Alex, Lizzy, and Stephanie were all actually related: they were all cousins, hence their startlingly similar quirky personality characteristics.

    It seemed using Diesel's and Wulf's paranormal gifts would be a fairl simple plot device to tie the three original novel series together by creating a fourth with Diesel and Wulf.

    Plus I liked having both Diesel and Ranger getting their own novel series, and my other hope was that tying the three lady's series together might spark renewed interest in those series that seem to have ground to a halt.

    Had not figured out how to get a Sam Hooker series launched but that one is percolating in the back of my mind the direction his might head in.

  2. Also, to be more to the point, this series is actually focussed on Lizzy, not Diesel. Janet has her female characters narrate those novels, she has said because she does not feel like she understands men enough to write a novel series from their point of view.

    Hence Stephanie narrates her novels, Alex narrates hers, and Lizzy narrates hers.

    And that was precisely my own rationale for my own forays into fan fiction with three or four of Janet's male characters getting their chance to not only shine, but to help flesh them out a bit and make them a bit more 3 dimensional.

    The one important facet of the Diesel character is that, in a way, he is kind of a paranormal bounty hunter a la Stephanie Plum.

    Which is why it helped getting to meet him IN those Between the Numbers books: we learn he is a paranormal Stephanie, basically, and when you know more about Diesel and Wulf, the transition to the Wicked series is a little less confusing. I think, anyway.

    And the monkey grows on you too. I like how he senses when people are talking shit about him and he just flips them off. I find that hilarious. He almost has a human personality, tons of bad attitude, but comes up short on dialog.