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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

What I'm Reading: Series Roundup Trail of the Spellmans and Blackout

In the spring I read two new books in some series I enjoy, so I thought I would do brief reviews with readalike updates in one post.

First up is the 5th installment of Lisa Lutz's hilarious San Francisco set PI series featuring the Spellman family, but narrated by Izzy, the middle child and a partner in the family own PI business.  I was so excited for Trail of the Spellmans to come out because Lutz had hinted that the 4th book (click here for my review) would be the last.

As in the "previous documents" (Lutz's running gag), Izzy is not only trying to solve a few mysteries, but she is also trying to get a handle on her eccentric family and friends.  The book evolves like the others in the series in that the Spellmans are investigating a few different individuals, except this time, many of the cases overlap, so the different investigators in the family are hilariously trying to keep information from each other so that no breaches of confidentiality happen.  But of course, as PIs they all want to know and begin trying to investigate each other instead.

New characters added to the mix this time are Izzy's boyfriend Henry's Mom, grumpy Grandma Spellman, and a new non-relative employee/resident in the Spellman household.

As a fan of this light series, I continue to enjoy Izzy's evolution into a full fledged grown-up.  Trail of the Spellmans deals with her relationship with Henry, but more importantly, she grows in her place in the business.  And this time there is an ending which resolves the mysteries but leaves a big surprise at the end; a surprise which will start a new chapter in the series.

Cheers to Lutz for keeping the series fresh and continuing to move the story forward.  Just know that with Lutz, you are in for more humor than mystery, more character than plot, tons of wit and irony, and lots of laughs.  Serious reading this is not; but it is a fun way to pass 8-10 hours.

Three Words That Describe This Book: humorous, private investigations, character centered

Readalikes:  In the past I have suggested readalikes for Lutz often.  Use this link to access them.

Some series I think are also humorous, smart, and character centered are The Ethelred and Elsie series by L. C. Tyler and the Mama series by Deborah Sharp.  Both have a family angle too.

My next series roundup review is of a last book in the Newsflesh Zombie Thriller trilogy, Blackout by Mira Grant.  Click here for the reviews of the first two books in the series.

To summarize though, here is what I said about the series at the Public Library Association Conference this past March (contact me for the full handout on "Trends in Horror Series"):

When Mira Grant began her Newsflesh series, people took notice immediately.  The series is best described as David Baldacci meets Dawn of the DeadIt is set in a near future in which the cure for the common cold, mixed with the cure for cancer has caused a small zombie problem. The world is full of zombies and they are not nice. Another speculative feature of this world is that when the dead started rising, the traditional news outlets ignored the story, but not bloggers.  Bloggers saved the day by working together to figure out what was going on and pass on information on how to properly kill a zombie and protect yourself.  In the first novel, our three heroes run a blogger network and uncover a deadly political conspiracy.  By the second, the bloggers are starting to realize the conspiracy’s roots go back to the start of the zombie plague.
As I have said many times about this series, while there are zombies here, it is not HORROR.  The appeal in these books is in the thriller, conspiracy, and the average Joe taking down the corrupt government story lines.  The zombie angle adds frame (and some fun zombie attack scenes).

That being said, Blackout, as the conclusion of this well plotted and entertaining trilogy, did not disappoint.  The conspiracy is revealed in its entirety, old characters from the first book return, and the good guys win (but with some casualties). This is an important point.  The series reveals itself to be true thriller in how it ends--happily ever after for Shaun and Georgia.  As someone who prefers horror, I could have done with a more realistic ending (ie, tragic), but I understood the series was more Baldacci than Maberry, so I was fine with it.

In terms of appeal, this is a fast paced book with 2 alternating points of view, with two separate story lines that converge about halfway through. At times the story is all about explaining the conspiracies or the movements of characters and then just as it begins to slow down, BAM!, zombie attack and everyone is on the run.

The action sequences are very well done, and unfold in a cinematic manner.  There is a fabulous one at the end inside the White House!  If Grant's prose cannot get your heart pumping, than you may need to check if you still have a pulse.

Three Words That Describe This Book: political conspiracies, zombies, fast paced

Readalikes: You can use this link for the readalike authors I suggested when I read the first book, Feed.

I would also suggest the Bourne series by Ludlum and others for those who want more conspiracy, and the Daniel Silva Gabriel Allon series for those who want a well plotted, smart, action packed thriller.

Finally, for darker suspense which crosses over well with horror readers, try John Sandford's Prey Series or anything by Dean Koontz.

More backlog of reviews coming out soon...

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