Book Review: The Spellmans Strike Again

By , May 29, 2010

SpellmansThe Spellmans Strike Again
By Lisa Lutz

Ok, let me ask you something.  When was the last time you started to read a book on the same day you checked it out from the library?  Maybe you’re a better library patron than I am, starting each book responsibly, as soon as you get it home.  But me?  I have what some would call a massive To-Be-Read (from here on known as TBR) pile, and what usually happens is that the books I get from the library go on top (because they have to go back before the ones I bought, which I own in perpetuity) and hopefully I get to them before my third renewal runs out (yes, you get three!  Woohoo!). 

Except with this book.

On the Friday I checked this out (I remember it was a Friday because I had to watch Friday Night Lights before I could read), I went home, had supper, watched TV, and then started it.  Being the fourth book and final (gasp) book in this series, I couldn’t wait to see what happened to my beloved Spellmans. 

If you’ve never met the Spellmans, let me bring you up to speed.  A family of PIs, the five members (Dad, Mom, David, Izzy, Rae - in birth order) seem to spend more time investigating each other than solving local mysteries.  Lutz has a charmingly eccentric writing style that includes the use of humorous footnotes.  Here are the books you need to read sooner than later:

Big Spellman






Without giving too much away, this last entry finds Izzy struggling to deal with her family while at the same time trying to maintain the family business.  Her friend Len is pretending to be a butler, Henry is pretending he likes her again, and good old Morty is pretending to like the great state of Florida.

Lutz hasn’t said definitively that she’ll never write another Spellman book, but if she does, I’m going to have to wait a VERY VERY long time for it (sigh).  And that makes me sad.  :(

What am I gonna do without my annual Spellman fix? Oh yeah, my massive TBR pile. That’ll work.
:) Amanda

Popmatic Podcast: Lost Finale

By , May 28, 2010

Popular Material’s Losties go all out with special podcast dedicated to Lost. Recorded a week before the finale. The tension is palpable.

Check out LOST – Books from the Island

Book List: Haunted Nights: a History & Lexicon of Horror

By , May 23, 2010

hauntednightsCheck out Haunted Nights: a History & Lexicon of Horror (book list)

Many folks like to be scared and the endurance of the horror genre proves that although this literary category has never quite achieved the credit given other brands of fiction, it isn’t going away anytime soon.  From fireside legends and ‘The Castle of Otranto’ to postwar science-fiction films and the ‘Twilight’ series, our collective nightmares and the figures that inhabit them have had an interesting history, often overlapping and merging with other genres to create something new.  These books should help familiarize you with the idea that being afraid of the dark can be quite enjoyable.

- Ben

Legends of Film: Stunt Man Loren Janes

By , May 21, 2010
Bill and Clint bring us an interview with Loren Janes, the stunt double for Steve McQueen throughout his 25 year career.  

Book Review: Wicked Plants: the Weed That Killed Lincoln’s Mother & Other Botanical Atrocities

By , May 21, 2010

WickedWicked Plants: the Weed That Killed Lincoln’s Mother
and Other Botanical Atrocities

by Amy Stewart, with illustrations by Briony Morrow-Cribbs and Jonathon Rosen

The moral of this story, boys and girls, is: never, ever run willy-nilly through the garden putting vegetation in your mouth! What doesn’t kill you can make you itch, twitch, vomit, or go crazy. Seriously, I knew that Johnson grass was a pest, but I certainly did not know that its new green shoots contain enough cyanide to kill a horse. I swear I will never go outside again without wearing garden gloves.

This fascinating little book is a compendium of nightmare plants, including some very common garden friends such as lenten rose, hydrangea, lantana, and Carolina jessamine. Don’t eat these things. And remember when we were hippies and wore those necklaces made from beautiful seeds and berries? When it started going around that the red berries were poisonous, we all thought it was a conspiracy to make us dress better. Turns out those red berries were the deadly seed of the rosary pea, native to tropical Africa and Asia. Yikes.

Wicked Plants is wonderfully designed, beginning with its printed cover. Inside are beautiful etchings from Briony Morrow-Cribbs and macabre little drawings from Jonathon Rosen. The pages are printed with an all-over schmutz, as if the book has been previously handled by a gardener. Although it suffers from the lack of an index, it’s small enough to be thumbed through when you need to know the name of the Australian stinging tree, a mere brush with which can cause unbearable pain for up to a year (dendrocnide moroides, common name gympie gympie).

As for Nancy Hanks Lincoln, she died of milk sickness from drinking the tainted milk of cows who had been grazing on white snakeroot. –Pam

Book list: Stieg Larsson Read-a-Likes

By , May 17, 2010

Can’t get enough of Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy? Can’t wait for the third book to come out in the U.S.? Check out these Stieg Larsson read-a-likes…

Book review: The Man Who Loved Books Too Much

By , May 15, 2010

Book ThiefThe Man Who Loved Books Too Much
By Allison Hoover Bartlett

I’m sure it’s no stretch of the imagination to believe that someone who works in the library loves, not only books, but books about people who love books.  So I was excited to pick up The Man Who Loved Books Too Much by Allison Hoover Bartlett.  Knowing that someone else can get as crazy-obsessed as I do about a favorite author or series makes me feel all toasty inside.

And then there’s this guy Gilkey.  He loves books, but not because of their stories.  He seeks out particularly rare books, and then he steals them.  Not for their resale value and not because of any sort of nostalgia.  John Gilkey steals rare books because he wants other people to think he’s smart and wealthy and cultured.  Plus, he thinks he deserves them.

Kinda makes you want to punch him, right?  I know, I know.  But at least there are men in the world like Ken Sanders, who make it their mission to stop guys like Gilkey.  This book tells the tale of Sanders, Gilkey, and the books that came between them.

Interesting sidebar: I also learned that I can never, ever be a rare books dealer.  Why?  Because once I’ve tracked down some highly-sought after, highly-priced copy of some highly-prized work, the last thing I’m going to do is sell it to somone else – I don’t care what kind of profit I might turn. I want to keep it because it’s MINE!!! (Is that a little selfish?  See, I told you I couldn’t share…)

So, boys and girls, the moral of this story is Don’t Steal Books.  Instead read about someone else who tried.

‘Til next time…
:) Amanda

DVD review: Beautiful Losers

By , May 10, 2010

Beautiful Losers

Beautiful Losers chronicles a loosely knit group of “street” artists who conquered the commercial and fine art worlds. Featured artists include Ed Templeton, Geoff McFetridge, Shepard Fairey, Margaret Kilgallen, Harmony Korine and others, all of which embody a punk-DIY spirit. Most interesting is the connection between contemporary art and skateboarding. If you are snickering you’ll swallow it when you immediately recognize the work. These artists (some of them anyway) are paid large sums to sell you diet cola. As a teen, Templeton was my favorite skater. I never liked the lines of his paintings but thrilled over the lines he cut with his skate. In the interim, his work has grown by light years. N-ville’s favorite cringe monger H. Korine is mostly on good behavior, filming his talking head shots in Fannie Mae Dees Park. He laments the lowered crime rate. Tricky implications of outsiders becoming insiders are glossed over, but Beautiful Losers is an inspiring film that can enlighten people as to where the art and design that surrounds them originated.

I assume the title of the film, and the group show it accompanied, is borrowed from Leonard Cohen’s great novel of the same name. Do it… yourself.

Book review: Darkly Dreaming Dexter

By , May 8, 2010

DexterDarkly Dreaming Dexter
By Jeff Lindsay

As I’ve mentioned before, I am a fan of the TV show Dexter (if you missed my previous thoughts, feel free to catch up here).  I’ve only got one more season to go before I am caught up with the general viewing public – so don’t spoil it for me.  (Yes, I heard what happens, but I’m still going to be surpised when the dark deed occurs.) 

While I’m waiting for the latest season to emerge on DVD, I thought I’d give the novels a chance.  I’m always curious to see how close the show/movie comes to the author’s original vision.  So to begin at the beginning, I picked up Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay.

Lindsay’s style of writing is good – narrative with just a hint of sarcasm.  It’s written in first person, much like the show is narrated with a Dexter voice-over.  We get all of the wonderfully macabre thoughts that flit across his brain.

Plotwise, the story is pretty similar to season one.  Bad guy is the same.  End result is slightly different – one character dies in the book that doesn’t die on the show and Deb has a different level of involvement with our villain, but the main objective is still acheived.

Since the endings were slightly different, I’m interested to see where book #2 goes, compared to season 2.  in fact, I may have to read all four books in the series (a fifth is coming out in September 2010). 

TBR pile: 429-1+4…  Will it never end?
:) Amanda

Book List: Three Southern Short Stories Collections

By , May 7, 2010

Pressed for time? Check out these three stellar collections of Southern short stories:

Reasons for and advantages of breathing

Mrs. Darcy and the blue-eyed stranger : new and selected stories

New stories from the South : the year’s best, 2009

- Beth

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