Friday, July 17, 2009

The Spellman Series by Lisa Lutz

I read the three books that are currently out in this series back to back in 2 days. So, I this mini-review is going to cover all 3. In order, the books are The Spellman Files, Curse of the Spellmans, and Revenge of the Spellmans. We are introduced to the Spellman Family. Patriarch Albert, Matriarch Olivia, the perfect oldest sibling David, the wild child (and main character) Isabelle, and the youngest (and possible evil genius) Rae. There is also an Uncle Ray (Albert's brother) who has a big part in the first book.
Isabelle is 28 in the first book and finally starting to grow up a little. She had been a juvenile delinquent (literally) as an adolescent, but had followed a straighter path once she hit 18. Her parents run a PI firm and all of the kids worked in the firm as teens, learning the business. David did not enjoy the family business and went on to law school. Isabelle loved the business. She also remained in her parents house, albeit in an attic apartment until she was 28. Rae was 14 years younger than Isabelle and 16 or so years younger than David. Rae also looks young for her age.
The first book is framed around the story of Rae's disappearance, and much of the information seems to come out as a result of Isabelle's questioning by Inspector Harry Stone.
The second book revolves about Izzy's inability to let a case go, even when everyone around her tries to convince her otherwise.
The third book revolves around Izzy's soul search about whether or not she is really cut out to make PI work her career. It also involves a lot of changes in her life.

I loved all of these books, which is probably kind of obvious because I read all 3 in 2 days. It was literally an I laughed, I cried kind of thing. Izzy is a very sympathetic character. To me she seems like what Sue Grafton's Kinsey Milhone could be if she would try to act a little more human. There is no doubt that Isabelle is a flawed character, and she at least begins to come to terms with some of those flaws by the end of the third book. She changes and grows and see the effect she has on the world. Over the course of the three books we also develop a nicely rounded picture of the other members of Isabelle's family and friends.
The mysteries themselves are ok, they aren't too hard to figure out. I was able to put the clues together myself before the reveal, which I kind of enjoy more than the kind of ending that just seems sprung on you out of nowhere. But, the mysteries are fairly compelling. It's also nice to read a series where the main character doesn't have to put herself in mortal peril in order to figure out the mystery. Actually, some of the side mysteries involving Izzy's family are more challenging to figure out than the main ones.
I highly recommend the Spellman Series by Lisa Lutz. They make up a funny, entertaining mystery series with great characters that you can root for. I can't wait to see where she takes the series next, it seems like it might be at a pretty good turning point.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Breakfast With Buddha by Roland Merullo

I completely loved this book. It took me a little longer to get through it than some of the other books I read, but that was because I would re-read portions and then have to stop reading to just think about different portions of the book or to talk about parts of it with my hubby. Not that hubby read the book, but he humors me.
Otto Ringling is driving from New Jersey to North Dakota to finalize issues relating to his parents estate. His traveling companion for the journey is Voyla Rinpoche, a guru in a tradition similar to Buddhism, but not quite Buddhism. Otto is a self-described skeptic of the more woo woo aspects of life and in the beginning is almost determined to prove the Rinpoche a fraud. However, the journey of the two men across America is a learning experience for both men. Otto teaches Rinpoche about America and Rinpoche teaches Otto about his spiritual self.
This book was an easy read, but deeply affecting. I felt unable to just go back to the more frivolous reading that I had been doing prior to Breakfast With Buddha. It inspired me to go back to reading Wherever You Go, There You Are by Jon Kabat-zinn. I have been attracted to Buddhism in the past, and on a recent 4 week trip to Green Mountain at Fox Run in Vermont finally had a chance to learn more about meditation and how wonderful the practice is. Breakfast With Buddha made me again want to explore my own spirituality and practice mindfulness.
I highly recommend this book it is an entertaining account of a road trip, and it makes you ponder weightier issues of life.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Where There's a Witch

I finished the new Madelyn Alt this morning. I do love Maggie O'Neill. She has finally found the place where she fits in the world and is learning some confidence in herself. It is wonderful to see her strengthening her backbone in this installment of the Bewitching Mysteries. I have a feeling there is still some trouble brewing in her little town in Indiana.
This book again places Maggie in the wrong place at the wrong time. There is an anti-witch undercurrent in town also that is making business a little difficult at Enchantments, the gift shop where Maggie works. This undercurrent is also causing some issues between Maggie and her police officer beau Tom Fielding. Of course, with Marcus waiting in the wings, maybe that trouble could be good.
I love the characters in Madelyn Alt's series. I care about Maggie and have been excited to take the journey with her as she discovers her abilities and what makes her tick. The mystery itself in this one is kind of a means to an end and mostly helps Maggie discover some things about herself and her abilities. It wasn't really too hard to figure out who the bad guy was, but this series for me is more about the characters and their development and I think the overarching big bad that is building throughout the series. It seems like book 5 brings us closer to that ultimate showdown.
If you're already a fan of Madelyn Alt's series, this book isn't likely to disappoint. If you haven't read any of the previous installments, the first book is called The Trouble With Magic. It's a fun series, with a little bit of paranormal thrown in and a little bit of mystery. But mostly I think it's about finding our place in the world and nurturing our natural talents. The Bewitching Mysteries universe is one that feels real. I can believe in the paranormal that Maggie finds in her world, it doesn't seem so far out.
Bottom line, I highly recommend this series for some light reading, a little light mystery and some fun characters.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

My new releases for Tuesday July 7th, Silent in the Sanctuary, Pleasure Unbound

So, in February I got the Kindle 2, so most of the books I read are on Kindle these days, but I do also read real books too, especially if it's something I really want that is not yet available on Kindle, like how Janet Evanovich's Finger-Lickin Fifteen wasn't available in Kindle format on release day last month. So, I bought the hardcover and will probably get the Kindle version as well.

The new books I was excited about today are Madelyn Alt's Where There's A Witch. It's the 5th book in her Bewitching Mysteries Series.

I also downloaded J.A. Konrath's Cherry Bomb the latest in his Jack Daniels series. Although, I have not yet read Fuzzy Navel.

While waiting for the new Madelyn Alt I had read all of the samples I had downloaded to my Kindle and ended up buying most of the books I had sampled.

Then I had started going back and reading books I had downloaded but had not read yet.

Silent in the Sanctuary by Deanna Raybourn
This was actually the second book in a series. I do hate to not start with the first book, but this was a title that had been available for free or cheap a while back on Kindle. It takes place in the late 1800s, mostly at an old monastery in England, March family home. It is a mystery where the environment is closed, the murderer has to be a part of the core group. I felt like this one had some good twists and turns. The characters were generally well written and fun to get to know. I did not feel like I was totally lost by missing the first book in the series (Silent in the Grave ), but it did make me decide to download that one and the one that follows Sanctuary (Silent on the Moor). These books do seem like they might be in danger of being formulaic, but I will reserve judgement until I've read the other two.
Lady Julia Grey is heading to the family home for the Christmas holidays along with her two elder brothers and a friend from Italy. Her father has intrigues planned for the holidays, but when one of the house guests is murdered the intrigues become more serious than Julia's father bargained for. Julia is asked to work with Nicholas Brisbane a private investigator type that she had met in the first book in the series to solve the murder before word gets out and sullies her already tarnished family name.
I was glad to have the built-in dictionary feature on my Kindle. I have not read a lot of books from this time period, and the built-in dictionary was great for looking up words that are not used often anymore, or not used in the context they were used in for this book. This book had the marvelous feeling of reading something written in an earlier time period, it had kind of a Jane Austin feel with more mystery and less matchmaking.
I can recommend this book to anyone looking for a fun mystery with some nice twists, and I hope to be able to recommend the whole series after I read the other two.

Pleasure Unbound by Larissa Ione
This was another cheap or free title for Kindle that I had downloaded a while back and just finished reading. It is an urban fantasy novel that is based around a demon-run ER that treats members of the supernatural community. This book is full of demons, vampires and shifters. There is also an organization of humans who work to rid the human world of these supernatural creatures a la Buffy.
One of the main characters is a Slayer named Tayla who is treated in the demon hospital by the doctor who runs it, a type of incubus named Eidolon. With one of the main characters being an incubus, if you guessed there are some good sex scenes in this book, you would be right. There are several subplots that weave together in an ending that I was able to see coming, but it was still an entertaining ride.