Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Yet Another Holmes!?!

As sure as the sun rises and sets there is sure to be another interpretation of Sherlock Holmes. With the recent big screen adaptation out today I thought it might be time for some pontification on that most memorable of detectives. While I thoroughly enjoyed Robert Downey Junior as Holmes with a cast rounded out by some wonderful BBC staples, I could always use another hit... though not the same kind as Holmes himself. I'm eagerly awaiting what, in the terms of geekdom, might be the most anticipated of collaborations. Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss are joining forces (yes that's me squealing in the background) to bring a new twist to Holmes. Sure they have been more recently tied up with Doctor Who, but that doesn't mean this will be anything like The Doctor... how about Moffat's Jekyll reimagining? Even if it is supposedly set in modern times, with Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman and Rupert Graves we have a cast that I am certain to love. The three 90 minute films are in production now and I just could only wish for a Tardis to jump on into the future to catch an episode. But the real question is, how does Steven Moffat have the time? With writing the new Tin Tin movie, being the new show-runner for Doctor Who and now this!?! Sheer multitasking genius!

All this talks of the new Holmeses leads me to a very important thought... who really is the definitive Holmes? Basil Rathbone or Jeremy Brett... how do they stack up against each other. And are we to factor in parodies? Because then we have Michael Caine facing Peter Cook! Also what if we factor in Holmes' history and take into account Ian Richardson on Murder Rooms (which if you haven't watched, you really must)? The truth is, each actor brings something unique and different to the role and that one can not be compared to another or even to how we view Holmes in our minds. Of course, this being me, I do have a favorite... from a love of Egyptology and being in love with the star at an impressionable age, Nicholas Rowe as Holmes in The Young Sherlock Holmes will always be my favorite. He does not detract from the original, but adds a new layer of awesomeness. I'm sorry Elizabeth had to die... but I did like you saying my name over and over even if you did cause me to have an unnatural fear of pastries.

The history of Holmes is fascinating in and of itself. Doyle never wrote the Deerstalker, that was an invention of the Illustrator. And when Doyle had Holmes killed off, he was brought back to life by mass consensus. There are societies and spin offs and scholars and every manner of devotion possible, it's no wonder there are so many adaptations!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Tuesday Tomorrow

Changeless, The Parasol Protectorate Book 2 by Gail Carriger
Published by: Orbit
Publication Date: March 30th, 2010
Format: Paperback, 336 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
Alexia Tarabotti, the Lady Woolsey, awakens in the wee hours of the mid-afternoon to find her husband, who should be decently asleep like any normal werewolf, yelling at the top of his lungs. Then he disappears - leaving her to deal with a regiment of supernatural soldiers encamped on her doorstep, a plethora of exorcised ghosts, and an angry Queen Victoria.

But Alexia is armed with her trusty parasol, the latest fashions, and an arsenal of biting civility. Even when her investigations take her to Scotland, the backwater of ugly waistcoats, she is prepared: upending werewolf pack dynamics as only the soulless can.

She might even find time to track down her wayward husband, if she feels like it."

Even more awesome then the first book, it leaves you desperately wanting Blameless now. As in right now, not September.

Silver Borne by Patricia Briggs
Published by: Ace
Publication Date: March 30th, 2010
Format: Hardcover, 336 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"When mechanic and shapeshifter Mercy Thompson attempts to return a powerful Fae book she'd previously borrowed in an act of desperation, she finds the bookstore locked up and closed down.

It seems the book contains secret knowledge-and the Fae will do just about anything to keep it out of the wrong hands. And if that doesn't take enough of Mercy's attention, her friend Samuel is struggling with his wolf side-leaving Mercy to cover for him, lest his own father declare Sam's life forfeit.

All in all, Mercy has had better days. And if she isn't careful, she might not have many more to live..."

Oh... and another book with werewolves! Yeah for werewolves! The 5th Mercy Thompson book is sure to please all those who've been desperate since the previous book came out last spring. Ah, so much good reading to look forward to!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Book Review - Alan Bradley's The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag

The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag by Alan Bradley
Published by: Delacorte
Publication Date: March 9th, 2010
Format: Hardcover, 384 Pages
Challenge: Thriller and Suspense
Rating: ★★★★ 1/2★
To Buy

"Sanctified cyanide
Super-quick arsenic
Into the Soup.
Put out the mourning lamps
Call for coffin clamps
Teach them to trifle with
Flavia de Luce!"

A mile from Buckshaw in the graveyard of Saint Tancred's, Flavia stumbles on a crying woman. Bent over a grave and weeping prodigiously. She turns out to be the beaten and bruised assistant to the famous puppeteer, Rupert Porson, who's show The Magic Kingdom, with Snoddy the Squirrel, is a huge hit for the BBC, not that Flavia would know, her father trusting televisions less then telephones. Their travelling show has hit a hitch. Their van has broken down and they have no money to repair it. The Vicar, Canon Richardson, being a huge fan of the show, suggests that they put on a performance for the parish in exchange for the ticket sales fixing their vehicle. An agreement reached, the details are ironed out, two shows on Saturday of Jack and the Beanstalk. Flavia, in more an inquisitive nature then out of kindness, agrees to help. She gets all the inside scoop on this strange puppeteer, who suffered Polio in his youth and is now a twisted man, outside and in, and avoids all the negatives of home life, mainly Feely and Daphne. Things seem to be going well, the show gets set up, and it is a little magical world where Flavia imagines sitting in Jack's mullioned windowed cottage brewing poisons... but then Flavia gets home and her Aunt Felicity is arriving the next day. So now committed to be in two places at once, Flavia does the next logical thing... gets up at dawn to help the puppeteers so as she can then meet her Aunt's train at the station later in the day. Flavia helps relocate Rupert and Nialla to Culverhouse Farm, where it will be more seemly for them to pitch their tent at the bottom of Jubilee Field, then amongst the dead at Saint Tancred's. But Culverhouse Farm holds misery and darkness. The owner's son Robin died tragically five years earlier, being hanged in Gibbet Wood, where the weird Mad Meg wanders. The fields are tended by a German POW obsessed with the Brontes and a Land Girl obsessed with him. But amongst the other eccentrics of the village, they hardly stand out.

The day of the performance shins bright and Flavia, astride trusty Gladys, whizzes to the Parish Hall. Rupert shows her a little of the magic behind the scenes with Jack and the Giant he will kill. But nothing prepares Flavia for how magical the show really is. She, and the whole audience are transported by Rupert and his puppets... one of which bares a striking resemblance to the dead Robin.... That night Flavia can't wait to see the show again. This time with her entire family in tow, put the show starts off differently. Instead of Rupert's fantastical Mozart introduction, the two old spinster's of the village who run the tea rooms, do their obligatory musical revue and then Jack and the Beanstalk commences. But just as Jack is to slew the Giant, a very dead Rupert Porson falls to the stage. With the whole village as witnesses, they are held and questioned for hours. At the end, it's no doubt that it's murder. But be sure Flavia is convinced of the police's inability to solve this case without her, and she might just be right.

Flavia is back and even more wonderful then in her first installment, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie. She still is up to chemical machinations... but it's her ability to unsettle people and ask the questions that need asking and being silent when you need to be silent, that makes her the best detective Bishop's Lacey has ever seen, sorry Inspector Hewitt, you are going to have to step up your game. More fast paced, the pages just flew under my hungry eyes, I just could not put this book down. From Flavia's newest revenge on her sisters, to the Bronte loving Dieter... this book just sprang to life off the pages and made me a participant of the goings on at Bishop's Lacey. But aside from all the layers of intrigue and subplots and mysteries, it was the puppeteer who kept this book strung together.

While most people of my generation think of the Muppets when they think of puppets, the British have a much more storied tradition of puppetry. I'm mainly talking about Punch and Judy, that terrifying duo that embraces violence and hatred for laughs. Until now, I didn't think that anything would capture the malevolence of them like the "Destroying Angel" episode of Midsomer Murders, but I was wrong. Alan Bradley has succeeded where even, in my mind, Neil Gaiman failed. The thread of those two malevolent puppets that strings it's way through this story is just brilliant. I think it has to be said, that only with the knowledge of writing for television and writing for children could anyone have captured the underlying menace and messy lives of those people involved with British Broadcasting. Haven't you ever thought that the people behind such "innocent" fare, like the writer's of Camberwick Green, had to really be mentally disturbed to write that kind of show? That's why people latched onto that parody Life on Mars did... because it's secretly what we've always believed to be true! Puppetry, whilst funny and light, also has a dark, ominous, evil side that ties into the Punch and Judy zeitgeist, that Alan Bradley has tapped into here.

If there's one wish for this book, it was that the ending was a little more... messy. It seemed to tie up a little too neatly. Things might not be as dark and foreboding as they look, and I kind of wanted them dark and foreboding. I am happy that Flavia did not get held hostage again, totally avoiding the cliche of damsel in distress, that brought the previous book down a star... but still, not quite perfect yet. I might have been willing to oversea the faults if Dieter had come in again at the end. You know... I think I might have fallen a little for that POW with the Bronte complex... I don't think I've even met a more fascinating man. Why does he have to be fictional?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Book Review - Alan Bradley's The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley

Published by: Delacorte Press
Publication Date: April 28th, 2009
Format: Hardcover, 374 Pages
Challenge: Thriller and Suspense, 1st in Series
Rating: ★★★★
To Buy

At Buckshaw, the ancestral home of the de Luce's, Flavia spends her time lovingly researching poisons and thinking up ways to exact revenge on her two older sisters, Ophelia and Daphne. What else can one do with a distant philatelist father interested only in stamps, a dead mother, and sisters more concerned with reading and makeup then their youngest sibling? Add Mrs. Mullet, a cook who keeps plying them with her unwanted custard pies, and Dogger, the shell shocked comrade in arms who saved the Colonel in the war and is now the houses general dogsbody, and you can see why Flavia likes the uncomplicated world of chemistry to that of her fellow man. Lucky for Flavia, the long dead Tarquin de Luce had a fervent love of chemistry equal to hers, and she has inherited his envy inducing laboratory high in the attics of Buckshaw. But their peace is soon to be disturbed, and not by the shrieks of Feely as her pearls are disintegrated by Flavia, or the muffled sounds of Flavia trying to extricate herself from the closest where her sisters imprisoned her... no. Murder is about to strike Buckshaw, foreshadowed by a dead jack snipe with a postage stamp in it's beak.

In the middle of the night, Flavia is woken by her father arguing with a man in his study. She is taken back to bed by Dogger and she blasts music to lull herself to sleep rather than stewing in her discontented and inquisitive mindset, but not before she heard her father say they had murdered a man by the name of Twining twenty years ago. In the early dawn hours she awakens and goes out into the garden to find the intruder dead in the cucumber patch. The authorities are called and the investigation begins. But Flavia has her own investigations to conduct, starting at the public library and the death of this man named Twining. To her trusty steed, her bike Gladys, she races and off she peddles to the library. Which is closed... but soon a librarian approaches. The retired Miss Mountjoy, the bane of the village, has returned to help the current librarian. But her arrival is felicitous, she happens to be the niece of the murdered Twining, who was a teacher at Greyminster, the school Colonel de Luce attended. Twining committed suicide in front of all the students by jumping off the top of the school after a prize Penny Black stamp was taken from the headmaster and destroyed in front of his eyes. Flavia, intrigued, then goes to the inn, assuming that the mystery man had to be staying there. In his room she finds the stamp that was supposedly destroyed... and it's twin! But back at Buckshaw it might be too late... her father has been arrested!

What follows goes back many years into the history of the postal service and the issuance of stamps and their connection to revolutionary factions. But also into the boyhood of Colonel de Luce and his friendship with two very forceful students, Horace Bonepenny and Bob Stanley. Also residing in the past at Greyminster was Twinging, the optimistic teacher who thought creating a conjuring society and a philately club would open the boys minds, never thinking that it would end in his death. There is also the author, Pemberton, whose interest in Buckshaw seems oddly timed. Can Flavia figure this out before Inspector Hewitt and the other detectives? Can she save the day and her dad, or will she herself need saving? Will see even live to see her twelfth birthday?

The only way to describe this book would be the Addams Family meets Eloise. With Flavia being very much like the precocious Eloise, but with a fondness for the macabre that could only be seen by a member of the Addams clan. Bradley has created a great little world with overtones of Christie and Du Maurier, which I'm sure he would gladly embrace, not the least of which is that they were both great storytellers in the cozy genre. He has given us a wonderful mystery that reads like the best of the British whodunits but with a unique narrator in the guise of Flavia. Her family and their estate remind one of a dysfunctional Larkin family, they all have their little quirks and obsessions. Whether it's Flavia and her chemical compounds or Daffy and her books or the Colonel and his stamps, Bradley has created a myriad of interesting folk and their foibles who you can't help but love. But their bizarre personality quirks aren't just their for the sake of creating a semblance of depth in these people, they are integral to the plot and to the solving of the mystery. Only those with the experiences and backgrounds that the de Luce's possess would be able to see the greater picture.

Despite the feelings of Rebecca and the other grand dames of British whodunits, there are times when I did feel a little bit put out. There is occasionally a repetitive and simplistic thought process that Flavia goes through that could have been omitted. This results in the reader sometimes getting ahead of her and sporadically hoping she'd "get on with it". But this is a tendency of cozies, and this is Bradley's first foray into detective fiction. Christie is Christie because of what she contributed as a whole, not just her first attempt. So, if we take that into consideration, the fact that at times the father's reminisces are overly long and seem like just the biggest waste of time in order to establish the exposition, Bradley has so much more to offer besides this exemplary though mildly flawed first attempt. I, as I'm sure many, wait with baited breath for Flavia's return in March! Hoping, of course, she's not to much more mature, but that the writing style is just a hair!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Tuesday Tomorrow

Bite Me: A Love Story by Christopher Moore
Published by: William Morrow
Publication Date: March 23rd, 2010
Format: Paperback, 320 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
Abigail Von Normal, nonperky, mysterious teen queen of the San Francisco night scene and backup mistress of Tommy, the unintentional Vampire is back to lead you through the 3rd book in the San Francisco Vampire trilogy. Learn what happens to Tommy, Jody, the Vampire Flood, Chet the Enormous Cat, The Smurfette, the Animals, and all your other favorites!"

I have yet to get around to this series, but seeing as it combines one of my favorite cities, San Francisco, and my love of Vampires, not to mention Chrisopher Moore's biting (haha) wit, I'm sure I'll love it. Plus, seeing as he's on tour while I'm on spring break... I might just head on over to Milwaukee and check this out for myself... maybe I'll see you there?

Author Tour:
Tuesday, March 23 at 7:00 PM

Wednesday, March 24 at 7:00 PM

Thursday, March 25 at 7:00PM
THIRD PLACE BOOKS (Lake Forest Park, WA)

Friday, March 26 at 7:00 PM

Saturday, March 27 at 2:00 PM

Saturday, March 27 at 7:00 PM

Sunday, March 28 at 2:00 PM

Tuesday, March 30 at 12:30 PM
BORDERS (Chicago, IL)

Tuesday, March 30 at 7:00 PM

Wednesday, March 31 at 7:00 PM

Thursday, April 1 at 7:30 PM

Friday, April 2 at 7:00 PM

Saturday, April 3 at 6:00 PM
BORDERS (New York, NY)

Monday, April 5 at 6:30 PM

Tuesday, April 6 at 6:30 PM
BORDERS (Baileys Crossroads, VA)

Wednesday, April 7 at 7:00 PM
POLITICS & PROSE (Washington, DC)

Friday, April 9 at 7:00 PM
VROMAN’S (Pasadena, CA)

Saturday, April 10 at 2:00 PM

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dawn of the Dreadfuls by Steve Hockensmith
Published by: Quirk
Publication Date: March 23rd, 2010
Format: Paperback, 320 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"With more than one million copies in print, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies was the surprise publishing phenomenon of 2009. A best seller on three continents, PPZ has been translated into 21 languages and optioned to become a major motion picture.

In this terrifying and hilarious prequel, we witness the genesis of the zombie plague in early-nineteenth-century England. We watch Elizabeth Bennet evolve from a naïve young teenager into a savage slayer of the undead. We laugh as she begins her first clumsy training with nunchucks and katana swords and cry when her first blush with romance goes tragically awry. Written by acclaimed novelist (and Edgar Award nominee) Steve Hockensmith, Dawn of the Dreadfuls invites Austen fans to step back into Regency England, Land of the Undead!"

Ok, so I admit, I still haven't finished slogging my way through Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. It's just not my thing. I thought it would be, but it wasn't able to strike out on it's own enough and just bastardized what was there. Good news though for haters of the original, apparently this one is good! Maybe not being belaboured with the original plot has let this thankfully new writer be uninhibited and break free and make something fun. So I think I might just give this a try.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Fire Up the Quatro

Gene Genie will return April 2nd! The press release has been pressed and set free into the wilds of the interweb! After last seasons cliffhanger I've been waiting with baited breath. Will all really be revealed about Gene? How are Alex, Gene and Sam connected? Will Sam make an appearance? Or even Annie? Gah! It's so hard waiting and to think of the eight weeks as this unfolds... sheer excitement is the only thing to be said! As it says on Philip's website: "It's time to get into the Eighties mood for the very last time because the award-winning BBC One drama, Ashes to Ashes, is back for Spring 2010. The highly-anticipated finale sees Philip and Keeley Hawes reprise their roles as that most un-PC of policeman, DCI Gene Hunt, and his sassy partner DI Alex Drake, along with Dean Andrews as DI Ray Carling, Marshall Lancaster as DC Chris Skelton and Montserrat Lombard as WPC Sharon 'Shaz' Granger."

To tide you over for the next two weeks, Sport Relief did a little golf parody video. While it's not as magnificent as a new episode, or even 2008's stupendous Top Gear cross over, and the Tiger Woods joke is unfortunate (see, this is what happens when public opinion can change in an instant), Gene Hunt golfing is a site worth seeing.

And as for 2008's excellence:

Cover Your Books!

So you say you're a book collector? Do you cover your dust jackets? Do you go that extra mile to protect what is in essence something that is designed to protect your books anyway? Well I sure as hell do! I like having that extra security blanket that is an extra level of clear acid-free polyester. I have a tendency to be clumsy and let me say these come in handy. While reorganizing during your Spring Cleaning you may drop or bump your books and more than once a torn dust jacket incident was averted due to my careful covering of my books in a bibliomanical frenzy (I think it took a week to cover them all). There are many places you can get these covers online, but there are some features I personally like to avoid. The covers fall into two basic categories: those with paper and plastic and those that are just plastic. I do not recommend the ones that have paper. Now while they are nice because they have paper to protect the inside of the dust jacket giving it a full 360 degrees of protection the paper is affixed to the plastic via a glue substance. While the glue substance is supposedly acid free, the main problem I have is say, what if your room where you keep your books got hades hot and then the glue started to run and, god forbid, got all over that book you were trying to keep extra safe to begin with!?! I say better to avoid the possibility, I mean it's hard enough if you are a true bibliomanic trying to adhere to proper book care guidelines, where books have to have the right humidity and temperature, just the right level of low sunlight, not to even mention that bookshelves are only to be on inner walls due to outer walls having too many temperature variables... best to keep stress at a minimum. And that is what I'm here to help do! Reduce your stress. I like to buy from General Book Covers. They have great products with lots of sizes at reasonable prices and with good customer service and speedy delivery. Not to mention they are also local-ish, they operate out of Eau Claire, Wisconsin, and that makes a Wisconsinite proud. So if your books need a little extra something something, head on over to there site and take care of your book needs! They also have a great interactive step by step to show you how to cover your books, the only thing I might add is it's good to have a ruler or something with a hard edge to get the extra nice crease at the bottom.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

In My Mailbox!

Ok, so yes, you're probably all beyond jealous that this just showed up in my mailbox. Yes I'm going to go read it immediately and forsake all others, all homework, laundry and food... well, maybe not the laundry and the food... there comes a point... But I just had to do a little happy dance and a little gloat for those who would understand how awesome this is seeing as I'm sure you all have March 30th circled in red on your calenders. But you too could own it now and not later! How you ask? Well... I did already spill the beans to a few of my other blogger buddies, but turns out Barnes & Noble is shipping NOW! Yes, now! This second! It could be on it's way to you and you, like me, could be having some Alexa Tarabotti fun this weekend, versus having a social life. But what's spring in Wisconsin without the forecasted 5" of snow after a near 70 degree day? Well... what are you waiting for? Go Buy!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Literature of Ireland

I love how Wikipedia states: "For a comparatively small island, Ireland has made a disproportionately large contribution to world literature in all its branches." My way of saying it? Ireland is awesome and that's why it has it's own special place on the calender when everyone who isn't Irish gets to pretend they are because we're so freaking awesome and cool with our disproportionally amazing writing ability. It's the storyteller gene. It's in us, it's a part of us. Time to sing, dance, talk, cry, and please, avoid the green beer.... So who are some of the people I think have given helped give Ireland it's place in the echelon of great literature? Well, for me there's everyone from Jonathan Swift, Oliver Goldsmith, James Joyce, Samuel Beckett, Bram Stoker to Roddy Doyle, Frank McCourt, Malachy McCourt, Graham Linehan, Pauline McLynn, Ardal O'Hanlon, Dylan Moran, Maeve Binchy, yeah I know some of those are comedians... but that doesn't discount them as writers, seeing as many have actually written books! But, there is one Irish Man who will always be the top, the best, the exemplar... I think you can guess, not that I'll make you. But no one comes close to Oscar Wilde. I'm sorry, don't try, you'll fail and be sad.

A favorite quote: "The public is wonderfully tolerant. It forgives everything except genius."

But then best quote about Ireland ever was in The Onion, where they were listing what Northern Ireland wants from the English as reparations, one of them was "Eddie Izzard Back." I was on the floor laughing at that one, because Eddie did live there for some time before moving to England but after he was born in Yemen. So sit back and enjoy some of the best literature on this most holy of days. If you feel more in a passive mood, pop in an episode of Father Ted, watch The Matchmaker, sing along with The Commitments, heck, Eddie's even Irish! Enjoy!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Tuesday Tomorrow

The Spellmans Strike Again by Lisa Lutz
Published by: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: March 16th, 2010
Format: Hardcover, 384 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"At the ripe old age of thirty-two, former wild child Isabel "Izzy" Spellman has finally agreed to take over the family business. And the transition won't be a smooth one.

First among her priorities as head of Spellman Investigations is to dig up some dirt on the competition, slippery ex-cop Rick Harkey -- a task she may enjoy a little too much. Next, faced with a baffling missing-persons case at the home of an aging millionaire, Izzy hires an actor friend, Len, to infiltrate the mansion as an undercover butler -- a role he may enjoy a little much.

Meanwhile, Izzy is being blackmailed by her mother (photographic evidence of Prom Night 1994) to commit to regular blind dates with promising professionals -- an arrangement that doesn't thrill Connor, an Irish bartender on the brink of becoming Ex-boyfriend #12.

At Spellman headquarters, it's business as unusual. Doorknobs and light fixtures are disappearing every day, Mom's been spotted crying in the pantry, and a series of increasingly demanding Spellman Rules (Rule #27: No Speaking Today) can't quite hold the family together. Izzy also has to decipher weekly "phone calls from the edge" from her octogenarian lawyer, Morty, as well as Detective Henry Stone's mysterious interest in rekindling their relationsh...well, whatever it was.

Just when it looks like things can't go more haywire, little sister Rae's internship researching pro bono legal cases leads the youngest Spellman to launch a grassroots campaign that could spring an innocent man from jail -- or land Rae in it."

Finally it's here!!! Yeah! No more waiting and hoping. What could be better? A giveaway and an author tour! Make sure to enter my Surfiet of Spying Spellman's Giveaway and head out to see Lisa when she stops by a town near you. I'll be at her Milwaukee talk, stop by and say hi! Obviously to me... Lisa doesn't need all that attention.

Author Tour:

  • 3/16 Los Angeles, LA Mystery Bookstore, 12pm
  • 3/16 Los Angeles, Mysteries to Die For, 7pm
  • 3/17 Los Angeles, Skylight Books, 7pm
  • 3/18 San Diego, Mysterious Galaxy, 7pm
  • 3/21 St. Louis, Left Bank Books, 4pm
  • 3/22 Nashville, Davis-Kidd Booksellers, 7pm
  • 3/23 Chicago, Borders Oak Brook, 7pm
  • 3/24 Chicago, Women & Children, 7:30pm
  • 3/25 Milwaukee, Boswell Book Company, 7pm
  • 4/1 Seattle, Seattle Mystery Bookshop, noon
  • 4/5 Houston, Murder by the Book, 3pm
  • 4/5 Houston, Blue Willow, 7pm
  • 4/6 Dallas, Legacy Books, 7pm
  • 4/9 San Francisco, Book Passage (Ferry Building), 7pm
  • 4/11 Phoenix, Poisoned Pen, 2pm
  • 4/13 Philadelphia, Chester County Books, 7pm
  • 4/15 New York, McNally Jackson, 7pm
The Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen
Published by: Bantam
Publication Date: March 16th, 2010
Format: Hardcover, 388 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"In her latest enchanting novel, New York Times bestselling author Sarah Addison Allen invites you to a quirky little Southern town with more magic than a full Carolina moon. Here two very different women discover how to find their place in the world—no matter how out of place they feel.

Emily Benedict came to Mullaby, North Carolina, hoping to solve at least some of the riddles surrounding her mother’s life. Such as, why did Dulcie Shelby leave her hometown so suddenly? And why did she vow never to return? But the moment Emily enters the house where her mother grew up and meets the grandfather she never knew—a reclusive, real-life gentle giant—she realizes that mysteries aren’t solved in Mullaby, they’re a way of life: Here are rooms where the wallpaper changes to suit your mood. Unexplained lights skip across the yard at midnight. And a neighbor bakes hope in the form of cakes.

Everyone in Mullaby adores Julia Winterson’s cakes—which is a good thing, because Julia can’t seem to stop baking them. She offers them to satisfy the town’s sweet tooth but also in the hope of rekindling the love she fears might be lost forever. Flour, eggs, milk, and sugar . . . Baking is the only language the proud but vulnerable Julia has to communicate what is truly in her heart. But is it enough to call back to her those she’s hurt in the past?

Can a hummingbird cake really bring back a lost love? Is there really a ghost dancing in Emily’s backyard? The answers are never what you expect. But in this town of lovable misfits, the unexpected fits right in."

Another book I've been longing for... ah it will be a good Spring Break!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Free Schimdt!

Want to show your love of the Spellmans AND help a good cause? How about getting your very own "Free Schmidt" t-shirt, just like Rae foists on the entire population of San Francisco... and a few octogenarians in Florida. Sure Schmidt isn't real, but there are many in his situation, so the sales of the Spellman shirts will help support The Innocence Project. So what are you waiting for? When you buy a shirt you get a cool receipt from PayPal saying Spellman Enterprises! Oh, and of course the shirt... Go, buy a shirt, and then wear it to one of Lisa's upcoming signings! Is there more fun to be had? Probably... but for a book loving Spellman dork like myself? Hardly. And remember, lovely contest to win swag... of which there might shortly be more thanks to Simon & Schuster... also, The Spellmans Strike Again, out Tuesday!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Book Review - Lisa Lutz's The Spellmans Strike Again

The Spellmans Strike Again (The Spellmans Book 4) by Lisa Lutz
Published by: Simon & Schuster
Book Provided by Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: March 16th, 2010
Format: Hardcover, 384 Pages
Rating: ★★★★★
To Preorder

The Spellman Clan is no longer at war... they are now bonding... there have already been two camping trips... in fact an all out family brawl might improve the situation and stop the exposure to the great outdoors and what passes for food at the Sunday night dinners... But work continues apace and aside from the fact, that with her boyfriend Connor's grudging acquiescence, Izzy is dating lawyers to keep her mom quite about an incident at Prom, things seem as settled as they can be with the Spellmans around. But things can't remain stable for long in Isabel's life with the two intriguing cases she has and fixtures from lights to doorknobs mysteriously disappearing from 1799 Clay Street. Plus Morty keeps calling her "from the edge" about how he wants to return to the Frisco. Henry, despite Izzy's avoidance of him after their kiss, seems really bent on getting their friendship back. Rae's newest obsession, thanks to working for Maggie, is to free the wrongly imprisoned, mainly a man named Schimdt. She has t-shirts and everything. Rae's obsession, in true Isabel fashion, makes her overzealous and she overshoots her mark and ends up in serious trouble. On the plus side, she might get to stay out of the Ivy league and with her new boyfriend due to having an arrest record. But Rae's meddlesome ways might help Isabel in her taking down Harkey... that most corrupt of PIs.

This latest installment is bittersweet. Being billed as the "uproarious fourth and final installment" I didn't think I'd be able to let go of my favorite family. I have two good reports on that score, the first, if this is the final installment I'm content with the ending, second, straight from Lisa "what I can say right now is that there won't be another Spellman book in March, 2011. I've been working on other projects. However, I think I will probably do at least one more Spellman book after that." So good news on both fronts.

In the forth Spellman book Izzy definitely seems more mature. She has a steady boyfriend, even if she's dating other men in the form of the legal brief kind and has signed a contract forbidding her from marrying Connor. There is always the Henry question... which does find closure... eventually. But despite Isabel's new found maturity, the antics of her family, along with her most interesting case yet, make this another great book by Lisa Lutz. Aside from her general snooping and surveillance on her family members Izzy has two cases, one involving a scriptwriter that is definitely more than it seems, and one that is straight out of an Agatha Christie mystery. The second is obviously my favorite, Anglophile that I am. The case involves a Mr. Franklin Winslow and his palatial Pacific Heights mansion and his absent valet, Mason Graves. As Isabel notes when arriving at his estate, she can see why her mother likes working for him, "it was like briefly inhabiting a life-sized game of Clue." The Spellmans usually run background checks on his ever rotating employees, but this case is different. Mr. Winslow relied on his valet for everything and there might be some reason for his disappearance. What is required is a spy/valet... and Isabel has just the man for the job, her friend Len. Of course she didn't really realize that he'd take to being Hobson to Mr. Winslow's Arthur quite so readily as "Mr. Leonard"... but that's actor's for you.

The one aspect I found interesting and different was the campaigning for the wrongfully imprisoned that seizes the female Spellman siblings. While it's a natural progression given Maggie's line of work as a lawyer and her being more incorporated into the family, I found it very different then any case before. While the books have dealt with crime and the seedy underbelly of life before, this felt almost too real. Hyper-real within the world of the Spellmans. It showed the petty squabbles that landed Isabel in prison as a kind of candy coated game prison, like in Monopoly where you wait your three turns and are released, whereas this prison is totally real. While I'm not sure if this jives with the whole series I think it was necessary because this stark reality shows more than anything that Isabel has grown up and that she understands life more than before. And while I liked the ending of this book, some aspects more than others, and I can say goodbye to them, if I must... I'll still crave a next chapter!

Make sure to enter my Surfeit of Spying Spellmans Giveaway to win this, or any of the other Spellman books. All signed 1st editions!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Book Review - Lisa Lutz's Revenge of the Spellmans

Revenge of the Spellmans (The Spellmans Book 3) by Lisa Lutz
Published by: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: March 10th, 2009
Format: Hardcover, 375 Pages
Rating: ★★★★★
To Order

Court ordered therapy is the least of Isabel's worries in this third installment in the Spellman saga. Having a car that keeps going MIA, a secret home as well as the looming decision of what to do with her life all compound to make Izzy's life very busy. Isabel has left her job at Spellman Investigations only to have Milo, her current employer and owner of The Philosopher's Club, attempt to force her back into what she's good at by offering her a case and then promptly firing her so that she'll make the right choice and go back to her parents. But Izzy isn't ready to make up her mind as to the future of Spellman Investigations until after she's spent some time rearanging David's liquor cabinet and searching his house while he's supposedly in Italy, giving her free reign... well there was a list of rules, but Izzy's working on breaking every one of them. Also Henry and Rae are not talking. Henry has gotten himself a sweetly neurotic girlfriend, Maggie, who Rae has made it known she will not like... she changed Henry's locks on her without Henry's consent. Of course Maggie and Rae becoming best friends might even be worse then them at loggerheads. But that is nothing compared to Rae being accused of cheating on the PSATs (pronounced pssssssats).

Meanwhile, Izzy, sick of living in a shit hole in the Tenderloin, upon finding that David has a fully furnished apartment in his basement, promptly moves in, without David's knowledge. This ill advised, yet economically viable due to her lack of employment, scheme brings on a whole new plethora of problems. Mainly she's blackmailed. But not in the way you would think. It's more of a cultural blackmailing involving trips to the zoo, which apparently is not a legitimate replacement for SFMOMA according to the blackmailer, whomever he or she is. Also David is acting strange on his return and is also surprisingly not at work, a strange thing for a workaholic to do... and inconvenient for the person secretly squatting in his basement. But while all these people are moving on and making something of their futures, Milo selling the bar, Morty moving to Florida, Henry getting a girl, Isabel is not growing up. She's reverting to her old habits of evasion and subterfuge, which she won't even discuss with her therapist. Lacking sleep and clear conclusions she decides that her one case will decide her fate. If she can do this the right way, the way a professional would, and not resort to her baser tactics... then maybe this is the career for her... but what happens when there's old family feuds with dubious PIs, bribery by political consulates and the ever looming deadline as to what will become of the family business? And where did she leave her car!?!

If I liked them less, perhaps I could talk about them more. But the Spellmans are just my favorite fictional family. All the snooping, spying and double dealing... plus don't forget the negotiations! I know that they're a complete train wreck but can I help it that I wish I knew them... it's not like I have anything to hide, so I think we could get along, once they finished fishing and I provided them with my social security number. Again I feel that I relate a bit to closely to Isabel's tendency to do whatever it takes, sleep be damned, to get what she's after. If only she'd apply these techniques to Henry Stone... or at least listen to Morty. I believe this book also perfectly caputres the feeling of those in their early 30s, the ones who aren't sure where they're life is going or what they're doing... not that this is similar to me... But Isabel is doing what she's always done and everyone else is changing. By the end, the fact that she's actually able to come to a clear decision of what her near future holds shows that Isabel is capable of change as well, even if it isn't so radical as those around her... Also I really hope we get more books, I know there's the forth, but I was hoping for a fifth, she did mention a fifth in the distant future no matter what The Spellmans Strike Again says in it's blurb... personally I think, seeing as she's using the Pink Panther films as a naming convention, we should have at least two more, there's still The Return of the Pink Panther and Trail of the Pink Panther. And while these are my two least favorite Panther films, mainly because unused clips formed into a film and recasting David Niven was stupid, I still think they'd make great Spellman book titles!

Make sure to enter my Surfeit of Spying Spellmans Giveaway to win this, or any of the other Spellman books. All signed 1st editions!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Cover Geek Out!

Ok, so while we impatiently waiting for the second book in Gail Carriger's Alexia Tarabotti series, still not out till March 30th, because sadly the laws of time and space don't see fit to jump ahead so that I'm on Spring Break and also immersed in a wonderful new book... sigh. But! Yes, dramatic declaration. The lovely people at Orbit have seen fit to release the lovely cover for the third book in the series, Blameless, out in September. Oh, gargoyles and parasols! What could be better? Yes, stop saying, if it was March 30th, or if there actually were ARCS. This is all we get... ok I lie, we also get an awesome making of video. Which, shows how they did what they did. In other words, the awesomeness of Photoshop, Illustrator... and I think InDesign made it in there as well. So while you're all going, look at the dress change color, look at the Eiffel Tower come and go (it really had to go, cause it wasn't built yet!) I'm going (*graphic design geek alert warning*), oh look they used the pen tool, damn that's an elaborate clipping path, I wonder what the feather weight was on that. So, really this video has something for everyone. The book geeks can have new cover lust and the graphic design geeks can have tool and job envy, although I have CS4, and they're only using CS3, so I can feel very mildly superior. Enjoy!

Wednesday Tomorrow

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 8 Volume 6: Retreat by Joss Whedon
Published by: Dark Horse Comics
Publication Date: March 10th, 2010
Format: Paperback, 144 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Buffy Season Eight Volume 6 showcases the first failure of the Slayer legion. Vampires have solid footing at the top of the totem and Slayers have been crushed to the bottom - in short, no one likes Buffy anymore... least of all this season's mysterious Big Bad, Twilight, who is hot on her magical trail! Now that it's the world against Slayers, Buffy must find a way to return the status quo to... status quo - and keep her girls alive long enough to do it! Enter Oz, the only person/werewolf Buffy knows who is down with the suppression of magic, and can take the Slayer army off of Twilight's magic-specific radar. With Oz's assistance the Slayers and Wiccans try to become "normal" through meditation and hard labor - although, not everyone sees the advantage of being magicless, namely, Willow, Giles, and Andrew. And they could be right; after all, is a peaceful life for a Slayer even possible?"

So this would be the volume where they all go to Tibet! They try to be all magic free and end up fighting Gods. Really, while I love Buffy, and I have read this... it's just... not the Buffy I know and love. Sure we have Jane Espenson, she's got all the dialogue right and the character interactions down... but the overall arc is horrid. Also anyone feel while Andrew is funny, he's just repeating himself? As a side note, when they were published as individual issues my questions was finally "answered." I wrote in with: "
I am not one of the Buffy fans who is writing to praise season eight. I have issues with it, but that's really beside the point because while I do not love it as much as the show, having Buffy still in my life is a wonderful thing, and the knowledge that each month I'm getting something new from the Whedonverse brings a smile to my face. But the more I try to work out the intertwining plots and speculating as to where exactly Joss is leading us, one thing keeps coming back to me and that is Warren Meers. He can't be! This has nothing to do with the ick factor of the whole he has a magical skin that saved him from dying because of Amy, this has to do with show cannon. I'm sorry if I'm repeating what someone else might have brought up, I don't read the q&a section with as much interest or scrutiny as the comic itself, but the fact remains that according to the show The First could only appear as dead people, the first was Warren, so Warren has to be dead. Changing this, even if they think of some "magical loophole" like, I don't know, he's technically not human anymore would be stupid. They seem to have just thought this up because having Amy and Warren confront Willow would be great drama, but in my mind great drama still has to adhere to the fantastical world it is set in. So what's your take on this? Do you have any thoughts as to the Warren/The First situation? I guess I just expect more from writer's who know they have a loyal fan base that tends to be detail oriented and are fact checkers." To which I got the answer, "It's Magic." WTF! Because Buffy was dead and now lives that's the same as Warren being dead and now alive. NO NO NO! Mister know-it-all. The comic states Warren was saved seconds before he died, he was saved from death, it's not the same thing. Amy circumnavigated the death so the whole first thing couldn't have been. Apparently I'm not the only one who this is pissed off, due to the curtness of the response. But it was a thrill seeing my name in a Buffy comic, even if you didn't answer my question truly, because Joss is not infallible because he's Joss. I would write back, but I fear it would take over a year to get a response again, and you have bigger things to deal with, like how the identity of Twilight was leaked online. Doh! That's not very good for your 4 year build up now is it?

Monday, March 8, 2010

Tuesday Tomorrow

The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag by Alan Bradley
Published by: Delacorte
Publication Date: March 9th, 2010
Format: Hardcover, 384 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
From Dagger Award–winning and internationally bestselling author Alan Bradley comes this utterly beguiling mystery starring one of fiction’s most remarkable sleuths: Flavia de Luce, a dangerously brilliant eleven-year-old with a passion for chemistry and a genius for solving murders. This time, Flavia finds herself untangling two deaths—separated by time but linked by the unlikeliest of threads.

Flavia thinks that her days of crime-solving in the bucolic English hamlet of Bishop’s Lacy are over—and then Rupert Porson has an unfortunate rendezvous with electricity. The beloved puppeteer has had his own strings sizzled, but who’d do such a thing and why? For Flavia, the questions are intriguing enough to make her put aside her chemistry experiments and schemes of vengeance against her insufferable big sisters. Astride Gladys, her trusty bicycle, Flavia sets out from the de Luces’ crumbling family mansion in search of Bishop’s Lacey’s deadliest secrets.

Does the madwoman who lives in Gibbet Wood know more than she’s letting on? What of the vicar’s odd ministrations to the catatonic woman in the dovecote? Then there’s a German pilot obsessed with the Brontë sisters, a reproachful spinster aunt, and even a box of poisoned chocolates. Most troubling of all is Porson’s assistant, the charming but erratic Nialla. All clues point toward a suspicious death years earlier and a case the local constables can’t solve—without Flavia’s help. But in getting so close to who’s secretly pulling the strings of this dance of death, has our precocious heroine finally gotten in way over her head?"

How excited am I about this book? Beyond excited! I just loved the first Flavia De Luce book, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie and have been counting the days to the new book. Count is over! Book is here! Now if only I can get my homework done today so all tomorrow can be spent devouring this book...

*Added note. Sad to say, the newest addition in the Flavia books is done with nowhere near the same production value. Instead of the wonderful cover with no dustjacket, the publishers have copped out, and now we have a dustjacket and my books won't match. Sigh, sometimes I really hate publishers.

The Dead Tossed Waves by Carrie Ryan
Published by: Delacorte
Publication Date: March 9th, 2010
Format: Hardcover, 416 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Gabry lives a quiet life. As safe a life as is possible in a town trapped between a forest and the ocean, in a world teeming with the dead, who constantly hunger for those still living. She’s content on her side of the Barrier, happy to let her friends dream of the Dark City up the coast while she watches from the top of her lighthouse. But there are threats the Barrier cannot hold back. Threats like the secrets Gabry’s mother thought she left behind when she escaped from the Sisterhood and the Forest of Hands and Teeth. Like the cult of religious zealots who worship the dead. Like the stranger from the forest who seems to know Gabry. And suddenly, everything is changing. One reckless moment, and half of Gabry’s generation is dead, the other half imprisoned. Now Gabry only knows one thing: she must face the forest of her mother’s past in order to save herself and the one she loves."

Forest of Hands and Teeth related book that quite literally everyone who's my friend on Goodreads has on their tbr pile. Literally! EVERYONE! Well... maybe 1 who isn't, but that's still very impressive. It's kind of funny too. The cover, not as catching as the original, but, the original was one of the best covers of last year... so what can you say?

Abandon the Night by Joss Ware (aka Colleen Gleason)
Published by: Avon
Publication Date: March 9th, 2010
Format: Mass Market Paperback, 384 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"From the raging fires, five men emerge with extraordinary new powers. They are humankind's last hope . . . but they cannot survive this dark, ravaged world alone . . .

Quentin Fielding had everything. Money. Power. Women. But now that civilization is all but annihilated, Quent wants only one thing: revenge. Harnessing a strange new "gift," he embarks on a deadly mission to find the man responsible for the chaos and destruction, the man he should have killed years ago: his father. Only one thing stands in his way—a mysterious, arrow-wielding beauty . . .

ZoË Kapoor is on her own quest for vengeance, searching for the monstrous fiends who murdered her family. Soon she and Quent join together, journeying through the ruins of the world they once knew as a desperate desire builds between them. Drawing closer to an enemy they never imagined, ZoË and Quent must abandon all fear, abandon all regret, abandon the night . . ."

3rd and I believe final book in the new post apocalyptic world that Joss Ware, aka Colleen Gleason has created. I'm interested to check them out... not Gardella interested, but still curious.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

So Where Were You Last Night?

I was in Wonderland, probably like most book geeks out there. I tried to go in expectationless. When I saw the preview a few months back, I was not trilled, but somehow over the intervening months I had forgotten my initial bad reaction and got excited. But I have to say it was not worth the whopping $15 price tag, especially if you then tack on the $2 service charge, and they didn't have Skittles! What movie theater doesn't have Skittles? Sometimes things don't work, the stars don't align, and the apparently perfect person isn't quite what was actually needed. Despite a star studded cast, it was lackluster, it was blah, it was boring. I will say, I didn't hate it, but it just wasn't all that. Tim Burton was hoping that by adding a definable plot that you'd have more of an emotional connection to the characters. Personally, I'm all good with my connection to the characters, it's his tinkering with creating an unsuccessful Red Queen overload with dissatisfied masses that rally around Alice that doesn't quite work. By having Alice escape her world and a looming arraigned marriage to come to Underland (yes, not a typo) and be forced to become a hero by killing the Jabberwocky seemed kind of dumb. Instead of a magical world of delightful nonsense, we have a world of oppression, death, war and post apocalyptic wastelands, that are never fully explained to my satisfaction. If they had fleshed out the resistance movement, if they had made the plot even more of a plot, then perhaps... but that's just a maybe. Having everything magically hing on Alice killing the Jabberwocky seemed dumb. Why would the Red Queen loose her power if the Jabberwock died? Really, if someone knows, please tell me. I personally found the real world far weirder and more interesting, peopled with some of my favorite British actors, many of which were in The Jewel in the Crown... but then again, yet another failed adaptation of Alice in Wonderland isn't that big a shock. There is no way this will please die hard fans and I don't see it bringing in any new ones... I think Public Enemies proved Johnny Depp does not always equal box office gold. Personally I think I'm going to go pick up the book and read what no one has ever successfully imitated, translated or adapted. There's only one Alice, and she'll always be there waiting for me in the pages of my favorite book. But just to entertain those who like to feast on the carcass, here's a few of my biggest concerns with the movie:

  • What's with all these new stupid made up words? Bizarre calenders and stupid times that are to come. Underland not Wonderland? And that's not explained till the end, and really, it's stupid?
  • The Red Queen and The Queen of Hearts are NOT the same person! Don't care if you're combining them, you're pissing me off.
  • Why is Helena Bonham Carter using her funny accent from the Merlin TV movie?
  • Aren't they trying to be a bit too like Return to Oz, and didn't Return to Oz do it better and darker, cause I thought Tim Burton liked dark? Let's add some true horrors... what was the Victorian equivalent of electro shock therapy? Anyone?
  • Trade routes to China were already established. Also, does this mean that Alice is going to be a drug czar?
  • The foot soldiers... too Steam Punk/Looking Glass Wars, didn't feel original. When did Burton become a hack?
  • Dan Scott (John Hopkins) from Midsomer Murders. Hate that prick. I know, offensive word, but it really fits his character in both appearances and totally covers my feelings for him.
  • Why is Crisin Glover stretched out? Why? There doesn't seem to be a purpose.
  • Guess who did the theme song? Avril Lavigne! Aren't I the happiest person in the world at this news? NOT! Apparently she's even going to do a line of clothes after Alice, oh joy unbounded!
  • Ok, I get funny accents, but WTF Johnny? The random Scottish brogue? You trying to outdo Brad Pitt in Snatch?
  • But, without parallel! The bizarre breakdancing interlude, oh, I mean fudderwhacking (see what I'm saying about made up words). It's not so much that it's a weird dance, it's that the music is early 90s electro pop randomly placed in a film firmly set in the 1800s!!! COuld you have tried insane bagpipes? Bagpipes are good, bagpipes are more... what's the word... not an anachronism!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Book Review - Lisa Lutz's The Curse of the Spellmans

The Curse of the Spellmans (The Spellmans Book 2) by Lisa Lutz
Published by: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: March 11th, 2008
Format: Paperback, 409 Pages
Rating: ★★★★★
To Order

Isabel is firmly back at Spellman Investigations, the lure of the PI life being too much for her. But she has removed herself from the attic and is subletting a rent controlled apartment from her Uncle Ray's friend Bernie. Some time has passed since Rae's disappearance. But the aftereffects are still felt, the fallout being manifold. Besides having to rewrite Webster's definition of "vacation" and "disappearance" in an effort to disabuse Rae of referring to her self kidnapping as her vacation, she has also gotten a new best friend. Henry Stone, the detective who investigated her disappearance (used in the original sense of the word), has become Rae's new bff, that is until she accidentally runs him over while he's teaching her how to drive. The incident with the car begins a downward spiral that will result in several arrests for Isabel and the possibility of loosing her PI license if her octogenarian lawyer, Morty, can't save her from jail time. The fateful day of the accident is the day she meets the Spellman's new neighbor, John Brown. Attractive in a Joseph Cottony way, but there's something off about a man who gardens and has such an untraceable name. The inkling that something's not right is present before Isabel finds out he has a locked room in his apartment, which sends her a clear message, she must find out what's in that room. He has also been linked to the disappearances of at least two women, as far as Izzy can tell.

But it's not just John Brown who's behaving mysteriously. Her mother is trashing someone's motorbike in the middle of the night, her father appears to be going to the gym, Milo her bartender is off, Petra her best friend and David's wife is MIA, David is depressed and acting guilty, and Rae is annoying everyone because Henry wants some alone time and she can't figure out why her teacher is hoarding his own snot. And to top it all off, Izzy becomes homeless when Bernie shows back up on the scene. What follows is only something that could happen to Izzy, who has an obsessive need to find out the truth before taking her own safety, future or sanity into account. After an ill attempt at dating John Brown, he becomes her subject, the one thing that keeps her going. The one thing that lands her in hot water and results in broken ribs, two b&e charges as well as a restraining order and grand theft auto charge. And can she solve the one case her parents have given her? A person or persons repeating her crimes to a neighbors holiday themed yard displays from her delinquent youth? But despite it all Isabel is growing closer to Henry Stone and he even takes her in when she has nowhere else to go. Will Izzy be able to save herself and her PI license, because if any of the charges stick she can kiss her license goodbye... or does that even matter anymore if she can't find out what everyone is hiding?

A little more disjointed than the first, but just as enjoyable. The framing of the story within the Morty/Isabel pre-arraignment consultation in his garage is less successful then the Stone interviews of the first book. Plus I feel that once we have the portent of doom with Isabel being arrested for the 2nd(4th) time, that cutting back to Morty just saying, get on with it, is unnecessary. But the mystery is far more Hitchcockian, with all the overtones of Rear Window, even if John Brown looks more like Charlie Oakley in Shadow of a Doubt and not so much Raymond Burr. Also the introduction of Henry as basically another member of the family is too perfect (plus The Stone and Spellman Show... priceless!). He is Isabel's match in so many ways. Sure they have great dichotomies of neat versus slob... but they say opposites attract. Plus he's able to take on her family, stand Rae, and help out, even if it is to provide Rae and Isabel with a Doctor Who outlet. By far, the best is Isabel's discovery of the new Doctor Who! For someone who is a Get Smart addict I thought that Doctor Who is a fitting natural progression. It's just like watching an old tv show from the 60s, but updated with all the technology of the present. Too too perfect, and also reflects how I am with my tv viewing. This book, like the last, is composed of loosely stringed vignettes of the Spellman's lives that result in a full story, like the following of clues from point a to point b through a wacky and humorous circuitous route full of wit. But there is also an undercurrent of true emotion and connection. The scene where Olivia realizes that for once, Isabel is number one in her heart, is just touching beyond anything. Really, I can't wait for the next installment and then the next, but most of all I can't wait for Isabel to finally give the cop her number.

Make sure to enter my Surfeit of Spying Spellmans Giveaway to win this, or any of the other Spellman books. All signed 1st editions!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Book Review - Lisa Lutz's The Spellman Files

The Spellman Files (The Spellmans Book 1) by Lisa Lutz
Published by: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: March 13th, 2007
Format: Paperback, 358 Pages
Rating: ★★★★★
To Order

"I cannot pinpoint the precise moment when it all began, but I can say for sure that the beginning didn't happen three days ago, one week, one month or even one year ago. To truly understand what happened to my family, I have to start at the very beginning, and that happened a long time ago." So begins Isabel's narration leading to the major event that happens to the Spellmans. But before we can get to the what, there's the how, presented in a pastiche of images from the history of the Spellman family. Isabel, our erstwhile and extremely dysfunctional heroine, was born into a family of PIs. Her father's an ex-cop, forced into early retirement by a bad back, he took up the only solid living an ex-cop is uniquely suited for, Private Investigation. On the job he met Olivia and it was true love. Their firstborn, David, was everything a child should be, hansom, athletic, smart and hardworking, growing up to be a lawyer. When Isabel came along she felt that it was only right that she was everything David was not, unruly, hard to handle and a juvenile deliquint... and perfectly suited for Spellman Investigations. But when Isabel was 14 the family was in for a surprise, in the form of Rae. Olivia and Albert found out that they were going to have another baby, while at the same time Al's brother Ray was dying of cancer. Rae was named in honor of the heroic ex-cop who then didn't die. Uncle Ray had an epiphany. If clean living made him sick then he'd just do what he wanted, mainly gambling, drinking and whoring which lead to a depletion of his resources and he moved into the residence of 1799 Clay Street, home of Spellman Investigations and the whole Spellman clan, minus David.

What follows is a narration of the odd events and circumstances that result when you've been raised in a family where spying, tailing, car chases, recreational surveillance, bugging, extortion, blackmail and all around prying into each others lives is the status quo. "The Spellman Wars" take many forms, from Rae stealing "new uncle Ray's" lucky shirt and holding it for ransom, to Isabel meeting a cute dentist on the job and then pretending she's a schoolteacher in order to date him, to mass sugar consumption, to fake drug deals... the wars are manifold with many skirmishes and allegiance shifts. But in the end Isabel decides that maybe this isn't the life for her and she asks to be let out. Her parents agree to her leaving if she can solve an extremely cold case involving the disappearance of one Andrew Snow, thinking that in a job where mysteries are rare, perhaps this will whet her appetite and return the status quo. But the status is very not quo when all the duplicity and infighting leads to Rae's disappearance.

I can not emphasize enough how much I enjoy the Spellmans in all their dysfunctions and obsessions, which I can sadly relate too. The interesting quirks and different forms of addictions each character possesses is hilarious, but at the same time, oddly realistic. From Rae's addiction to sugar and recreational surveillance, to Izzy's drink and Get Smart, to Uncle Ray's women and cards. Each character has there own set of flaws that make them unique, but at the same time, obviously related and relatable. Also the way the story is told in little snippets, like a dossier, makes you see the overall history of the characters through specific incidents and examples versus having an extremely long backstory. It also stripes away the Hollywood glamor of the PI's life showing the dysfunction and strained relationships that result from needing to always know the why. Isabel's headlong pursuit of the truth is single-minded and self destructive, but haven't we all been there? Knowing we should stop and we've gone too far, but knowing that we will still do it anyway. Fans of Veronica Mars will enjoy the same kind of mystery combined with a dry wit. I really can't recommend this book, and all Lisa Lutz's books enough! But be forewarned... be prepared to having the overwhelming desire to watch mass quantities of Get Smart afterwords! Luckily now available on DVD.

Make sure to enter my Surfeit of Spying Spellmans Giveaway to win this, or any of the other Spellman books. All signed 1st editions!

A Surfeit of Spying Spellmans Giveaway! THIS GIVEAWAY NOW CLOSED!

Hmmm... a new month, I wonder what I'll be giving away... oh, I kid! I've been hoarding away books for March (I don't jest, there's a pile!)You see, there's these books by Lisa Lutz, the Spellmans star, and I just can't get enough of them. The forth and NOT final (ignore the blurb, listen to the author) is being released this month and I've been dying to foist these lovely dysfunctional spies on you, my loyal readers... but I wanted to make it beyond special. So the prize... no wait, I mean prizes. Yes, that is a highlighted, italicized, emboldened "s," because I have not one, not two, but four prizes*! One for each book... in fact, one is each book... but they are so much more! They are all signed first editions. That's right! Signed Spellman books, what could be better? Really, for me personally, nothing could be better. In fact, I think after writing this post I might just dive right back into the family who spies together. Of course you might want more information before entering, so over the next two weeks I'll be posting my reviews for all four of the books leading up to the March 16th release of The Spellman's Strike Again. Plus Lisa will be touring to promote this book, so keep an eye out for her, I'll be there in Milwaukee covering her March 25th event... who knows, perhaps I'll see you there? Now onto the prizes!

*Now doubled thanks to my bffs at Simon & Schuster!


The Prizes:
Prize 1: The Spellman Files *Signed* 1st Edition
Prize 2: Curse of the Spellmans *Signed* 1st Edition
Prize 3: Revenge of the Spellmans *Signed* 1st Edition
Prize 4: The Spellmans Strike Again *Signed* 1st Edition with a Free Schmidt T-shirt!
Prizes 5-8: The Spellmans Strike Again *unsigned* 1st Eiditon

The Rules:
1. Open to EVERYONE, just because you haven't been following me all along doesn't mean you don't matter.
2. Please make sure I have a way to contact you if your name is drawn, either your blogger profile or a link to your website/blog or you could even include your email address with your comment(s).
3. Contest EXTENDED! Now ends Friday, April 30th at 11:59PM CST (and yes, I know I just like tacked on a whole month... but I'm so close to 200 followers I can feel it! Plus, I this is kind of the biggest giveaway I've ever run and I want it to be even bigger, insert evil laugh here!)
4. The 1st winner gets to choose which prize they want, then the 2nd, then on till the 4th name drawn gets whatever is left (which is still awesome no matter which book it is!)
5. How to enter:

Answer me this: Who is your favorite literary detective? Holmes? A Hammett creation? Are you a golden age gal or a noir lad?

6. And for those addicted to getting extra entries:

  • +1 for answering the question above
  • +2 for becoming a follower
  • +5 if you are already a follower
  • +10 for each time you advertise this contest - blog post, sidebar, twitter (please @MzLizard), etc. (but you only get credit for the first post, so tweet all you like, and I thank you for it, but you'll only get the +10 once). Also please leave a link!
7. If I should hit 200 followers, well lets just say really cool, yet thematically appropriate, items will be added to the prizes.

Good luck! Here's the March!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Tuesday Tomorrow

Club Dead by Charlaine Harris
Published by: Ace Hardcover
Publication Date: March 2nd, 2010
Format: Hardcover, 304 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Things between cocktail waitress Sookie and her vampire boyfriend Bill seem to be going excellently (apart from the small matter of him being undead) until he leaves town for a while. A long while. Bill's sinister boss Eric has an idea of where to find him, whisking her off to Jackson, Mississippi to mingle with the under-underworld at Club Dead. When she finally catches up with the errant vampire, he is in big trouble and caught in an act of serious betrayal. This raises serious doubts as to whether she should save him or start sharpening a few stakes of her own ..."

Oh... collectible edition! Because any true Sookie fan knows that it wasn't until book four that Sookie became worthy of the coveted hardcover... so now (in order to capitalize on Charlaine's fame) they're offering them in hardcover. Personally, I love this, but I wish they'd stick to a standardized size... small, big, uber big, small... urgh. It infuriates the true collector. Especially the font change over! Also, my book dealer bbf, David, over at Murder by the Book has signed editions! Make sure to nab one of those, I already have!

Ghouls Gone Wild by Victoria Laurie
Published by: Signet
Publication Date: March 2nd, 2010
Format: Paperback, 366 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Psychic M.J. Holliday finds herself in a witchy situation... When M.J. and her friends travel to a small town near Edinburgh, Scotland, to film the first installment of their new cable TV show Ghoul Getters, they find plenty of spooky action in a series of supposedly haunted caverns. But when they discover the body of a maintenance worker, the cause of death is reminiscent of an old legend involving a witch's wrath..."

Such fun! These covers are just wonderfully and graphically stunning. While, not the highlight of book three, with the Golden Gate Bridge, we do get Scotland!

Shalador's Lady by Anne Bishop
Published by: ROC
Publication Date: March 2nd, 2010
Format: Hardcover, 496 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"For years the Shalador people suffered the cruelties of the corrupt Queens who ruled them, forbidding their traditions, punishing those who dared show defiance, and forcing many more into hiding. Now that their land has been cleansed of tainted Blood, the Rose-Jeweled Queen, Lady Cassidy, makes it her duty to restore it and prove her ability to rule.

But even if Lady Cassidy succeeds, other dangers await. For the Black Widows see visions within their tangled webs that something is coming that will change the land-and Lady Cassidy-forever..."

I have so many people who swear by this series... I should really pick up the first book off the bottom of my to be read pile.

The Dead Travel Fast by Deanna Raybourn
Published by: Mira
Publication Date: March 2nd, 2010
Format: Paperback, 320 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"A husband, a family, a comfortable life: Theodora Lestrange lives in terror of it all.

With a modest inheritance and the three gowns that comprise her entire wardrobe, Theodora leaves Edinburgh — and a disappointed suitor — far behind. She is bound for Roumania, where tales of vampires are still whispered, to visit an old friend and write the book that will bring her true independence.

She arrives at a magnificent, decaying castle in the Carpathians replete with eccentric inhabitants: the ailing dowager; the troubled steward; her own fearful friend, Cosmina. But all are outstripped in dark glamour by the castle's master, Count Andrei Dragulescu.

Bewildering and bewitching in equal measure, the brooding nobleman ignites Theodora's imagination and awakens passions in her that she can neither deny nor conceal. His allure is superlative, his dominion over the superstitious town, absolute — Theodora may simply be one more person under his sway.

Before her sojourn is ended — or her novel completed — Theodora will have encountered things as strange and terrible as they are seductive. For obsession can prove fatal...and she is in danger of falling prey to more than desire."

Another author I've heard so many good things about. Check her out! She'll be at Murder by the Book this Saturday!

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