The Spellman Files #1

Author: Lisa Lutzspellmen
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Date: 2007
Genre: Humor, Mystery
ISBN: 9781416532392
Price: $25
Number of Pages: 353
Available Formats: Hardback, Paper back, E-book, Audio

Rating: 3Q, 3P

Links to Author’s Website and Interviews

http://lisalutz.com/

http://www.mybookishways.com/2013/07/interview-lisa-lutz-author-of-the-last-word-the-spellman-files.html

Links to Reviews

https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/lisa-lutz/the-spellman-files/

http://www.publishersweekly.com/978-1-4165-3239-2

Reader’s Annotation

A family full of P.I’s. What could possibly go wrong?

Plot Summary

This is a light-hearted book focuses on the Spellman family that owns a PI firm. The oldest daughter, Izzy, is the main character and the story is told from her point of view. It is very non-linear, with the story told mostly through flashbacks, focusing on her childhood and adult years working in the firm. We learn that Izzy has had a very troubled life, as she has had many run-ins with the law and was on a very destructive path until she realized that her little sister, Rae, was beginning to act like her. The bulk of the story is about the family’s shenanigans in spying on each other. The novel, however, is framed by Rae’s disappearance and Izzy is looking back on how it came to be.

Critical Evaluation

This book wasn’t quite what I expected. I had expected more of a mystery with eccentric characters, such as Meg Cabot’s Heather Wells series. However, the central mystery in this book is really non-existent. The story is really about the family and their relationships with each other. The book is extremely funny, but the character of Izzy began to wear thin on me after a while. I felt like her character didn’t develop as fast as I would like. Her character grows annoying and downright crazy toward the end of the book. I especially didn’t like her relationship with Daniel and how she was pretending to be something she wasn’t. I understood at first, but as they grew closer, I felt like it didn’t make sense to keep her profession a secret. The little sister was along similar lines in that I liked her at first but she began to grow more obnoxious as the novel progressed. Her antics were supposed to be funny but really just got on my nerves. However, I think it was a well-written book overall. It just wasn’t what I thought it was going to be, and that’s colored my opinion of it somewhat.

Appeal Factors

Funny, upbeat, fast-paced

Read-alikes

The Bride Wore Size 12 by Meg Cabot
One for the Money by Janet Evanovitch

Awards & Lists

Alex Award: 2008

Discussion Ideas

• Discuss the relationship between Izzy and Rae.
• Discuss Izzy as a character.
• Discuss the genre. Is the book really a mystery?

Justification of Selection

I’m not very familiar with mysteries and I wanted to try different ones out. This one caught my eye because of its humorous tone. It reminded me of Meg Cabot’s Heather Wells mysteries, which I loved.

Storm Front (Dresden Files #1)

Author: Jim Butcherstorm
Publisher: Roc
Date: 2000
Genre: Urban Fantasy, Mystery
ISBN: 9780451457813
Price: $9.99
Number of Pages: 322
Available Formats: Hardback, Paper back, E-book, Audio

Rating: 3Q, 4P

Links to Author’s Website and Interviews

http://www.jim-butcher.com/

http://www.seattlepi.com/lifestyle/blogcritics/article/The-Gencon-Files-Interview-with-Jim-Butcher-5689106.php

Links to Reviews

https://www.kirkusreviews.com/features/jim-butchers-dresden-files/

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/storm-front-jim-butcher/1100315481?ean=9780451457813

Reader’s Annotation

A P.I who just happens to be a wizard. Good thing Harry Dresden is on the case.

Plot Summary

It is just another day for Harry Dresden at his PI office when he receives a mysterious phone call from a frightened woman. She seems to have an idea that Harry is a wizard, which immediately intrigues him. He makes an appointment for her to come by to discuss her case. However, almost immediately, he is called away to assist the police in a murder case. He is a consultant for the police on unexplained or paranormal cases. They do not know that he is a wizard but know he has a knowledge in the occult. He arrives at the scene of the case and finds the murder of a man and woman whose hearts had exploded. He knows immediately that this is the work of a powerful wizard but hide his true findings and investigation from the police. He is quickly accosted by a mob lord and threatened not to pursue the case. Harry decides to keep investigating and takes the woman’s case as well. As he investigates further, he begins to realize that there’s more to the cases than he thought and that his life and those around him are in danger.

Critical Evaluation

This isn’t normally the type of book I would read. I’m usually not interested in hard-boiled detective stories, but I found myself liking this book. Harry is an interesting character. I enjoyed his sense of humor and how tough he could be. The fantastical elements are handled well and don’t feel overdone. The reader slowly learns about the world rather than through a massive exposition dump at the beginning of the novel. I also liked some of the side characters, such as Karrin Murphy, who had a nice rapport with Harry. The writing was very straight-forward and simplistic, which I thought fit with the overall tone and theme of the book. Overall, I thought it was a nice change of pace. Butcher did a wonderful job mixing the fantasy and mystery genres.

Appeal Factors

Fast-paced, quirky, YA appeal

Read-alikes

Moon Over SoHo by Ben Aaronovitch
Hot Lead, Cold Iron by Ari Marmell

Discussion Ideas

• Discuss the role of women in the novel.
• Discuss the genres of fantasy and mystery. Is Butcher successful in blending the two?

Justification of Selection

I don’t read a lot of fantasy nor mystery, so I thought this would be a good way to get both. It sounded like a very interesting blend of the two and Harry seemed like a very interesting character. They are somewhat popular in my school library, so I thought I would give it a try.

An Unsuitable Job for a Woman

Author: P.D. Jamesunsuitable
Publisher: Scribner
Date: 1972
Genre: Mystery
ISBN: 9780743219556
Price: $16.00
Number of Pages: 250
Available Formats: Hardback, Paper back, E-book, Audio

Rating: 3Q, 2P

Links to Author’s Website and Interviews

https://www.randomhouse.com/features/pdjames/

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/authorinterviews/7894385/PD-James-interview-I-have-lived-a-very-happy-and-fulfilled-life.html

http://www.npr.org/2014/12/01/367766895/p-d-james-believed-mysteries-were-made-of-clues-not-coincidences

Links to Reviews

https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/pd-james/an-unsuitable-job-for-a-woman/

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A39166-2004Apr24.html

Reader’s Annotation

They say detective work is unsuitable for a woman, but Cordelia Gray won’t stop until she proves them wrong.

Plot Summary

The story opens with Cordelia Gray, a new private detective who has just been made partner with her friend’s P.I. business. As she walks into the office, she finds her friend/partner dead. She finds a note saying that he killed himself because he found out he had terminal cancer. She finds that he left her the business and his home and, despite other misgivings, she decides to keep the business open. After the funeral, things are looking pretty grim, financially, when a woman comes in looking for a PI. It turns out she works for a rich man who wants to find out why his son, a college student, killed himself. Cordelia takes the case and soon realizes that the suicide is not what it seems.

Critical Evaluation

I have very mixed feelings about this novel. While I enjoyed the beautiful prose, there were times that the leisurely pace began to get on my nerves. This book takes a very long time to get to the point which, at times, was very frustrating because I was interested in the mystery. I think the fact that I felt like there was such a disconnect with the pacing of the story was that it’s just so old fashioned and is nothing like what is currently being published in the mystery genre. I did, however, like the character of Cordelia Gray. I enjoyed how involved she got with the case, both emotionally and intellectually. I thought her connection with the victim was a really interesting theme and made sense in the context of the novel. I also really liked how the book kept me guessing until the end.

This is one of the books I tried listening to the audio version. I really wasn’t a fan of the narrator’s voice. I found it very grating and after an hour of listening I threw the towel in and just read the book.

Appeal Factors

Leisurely paced, intricately plotted, character-driven

Read-alikes

Light of the World by James Lee Burke

A Great Deliverance by Elizabeth George

Awards & Lists

1973 Best Novel Award, Mystery Writers of America (runner-up): An Unsuitable Job for a Woman

Discussion Ideas

  • Discussion of women detectives in the genre and how Cordelia Gray fits in.
  • Discussion of the progression of mystery as a genre in terms of writing style.
  • Discussion of Cordelia’s attachment to Mark.

Justification of Selection

I read this book because it was the selection for the mystery group, but I’m glad I did. Even though I’m not a huge mystery reader, I enjoyed seeing the genre from a different perspective. This book is completely different from what is being published today and in a way felt like a breath of fresh air.

Fables, Legends In Exile (Volume 1)

Author: Bill Willinghamfables
Illustrator: Lan Medina
Publisher: DC Comics
Date: 2003
Genre: Graphic Novel, Fantasy, Mystery
ISBN: 9781401237554
Price: 12.99
Number of Pages: 125
Available Formats: Hardcover, paperback

Rating Scale: 5Q, 4P

Links to Author’s Website and Interviews

http://www.billwillingham.com/

http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=article&id=53547

Links to Reviews

http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=article&id=53547

http://www.publishersweekly.com/978-1-56389-942-3

Reader’s Annotation

A room is covered in blood, a woman is missing and the big, bad wolf is on the case.

Summary

Fables is a series of graphic novels that is set around Fabletown, a town in New York which fairytale characters have made their home after getting kicked out of their own world. It is a mixture of both fantasy and mystery genres. The story begins with a man named Jack, who goes to Sheriff Bigby, who happens to be the big, bad wolf from fairytales. Jack informs Bigby that something has happened to his girlfriend, Rose, who happens to be the sister of Snow White. He finds Rose’s apartment covered in blood, with a message on the wall saying “No more happily ever after.” There is no body, but the sheer amount of blood suggests that Rose has been murdered. Bigby accepts the case and, with the help of Snow White, tries to uncover the truth of what happened.

Critical Evaluation

I thoroughly enjoyed this graphic novel. I liked the art, the characters and the story. The mix between fairytales and noir storytelling Bigby makes for a fascinating protagonist. It’s interesting to see him deal with being the sheriff but also having a dark past that people like to throw in his face all of the time. Snow White is also an interesting character, and the two have good chemistry together as friends that could possibly become something more. There’s also a whole host of interesting side characters that come up. If you know fairy tales, getting to see these characters adds humor and provides more context for the the world. I also thought the class struggle that was presented in the book was really interesting. You can see that some of the lesser fairytale creatures resent the more wealthy characters. Overall, I was really surprised at how good this was. It’s definitely made me interested in reading the rest of the series.

Significance of Book

This is a graphic novel series that has earned a lot of rave reviews and awards. It’s take on fairy tale character is fascinating and the characters are richly drawn and fascinating. The hardboiled mystery aspect meshes perfectly with the fantasy genre.

Read-alikes

Beautiful Darkness by Fabian Vehlmann

The Sandman by Neil Gaiman

Awards and Lists

As of 2012, Fables has won fourteen Eisner Awards.

Best New Series in 2003

Best Serialized Story in 2003, 2005 and 2006 (“Legends In Exile”, “March of the Wooden Soldiers” and “Homelands”)

Best Anthology in 2007 (Fables: 1001 Nights of Snowfall)

Best Short Story in 2007 (“A Frog’s Eye View,” by Bill Willingham and James Jean, in Fables: 1001 Nights of Snowfall)

Best Penciller/Inker or Penciller/Inker Team in 2007 (Mark Buckingham and Steve Leialoha)

Best Painter/Multimedia Artist (Interior) in 2007 (Jill Thompson)

Best Cover Artist in 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2009 (James Jean)

While Fables only advertises winning fourteen Eisner Awards on their covers, the following Eisner awards have also been won by members of their staff for their work on Fables:

Best Writer in 2009 (Bill Willingham)

Best Lettering in 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2011 (Todd Klein)

Fables: War and Pieces was nominated for the first Hugo Award for Best Graphic Story.[24]Fables: The Dark Ages, Fables: Witches and Fables: Rose Red were also nominated.

Prominent review site IGN has called it “the best comic book currently being produced”[25]

Taken From Wikipedia

Discussion Ideas

  • Discuss the characters’ connection to the fairy tales. How are they similar? Different?
  • Discuss the graphic novel in terms of a classic hard boiled mystery.
  • Discuss the Wolf’s relationship with Snow White.

Justification of Selection

I was on the lookout for a graphic novel and this series immediately caught my eye. I like the idea of a modern twist on the classic fairytale stories mixed in with the mystery genre. There have been a lot of fairytale twists but I’ve never seen anything quite like this before.