Review: Revenge of the Spellmans

Revenge of the Spellmans
Revenge of the Spellmans by Lisa Lutz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I remember, once, someone complaining about a video game sequel that I’d enjoyed, saying “It’s just like the first one!.” But I liked the first one, so, to me, the sequel was more of that goodness. So too with Revenge of the Spellmans. I don’t feel like there’s much more here than in the previous two novels, The Spellman Files and Curse of the Spellmans—which I thoroughly enjoyed. And there’s certainly no less in this third novel.

(Here’s a thought—can I get away with writing the same review each time? Eh, probably not.)

Anyyway, for those who are wondering, rest assured: here are the same old Spellmans. Mom is still manipulative, dad is still stubborn, brother is still aloof, sister is still uncontrollable, and main character is still a little bit off-kilter. Maybe not as much as in the previous two, but enough to keep the reader liking her.

And, for what it’s worth, Lutz introduces a few more characters to keep this cavalcade fun and immersive. There’s the crush’s new girlfriend, there’s the bartender’s cousin, there’s an old foe come back to play havoc with… and more.

So, as much as I’m saying that Revenge is just like Curse and Files, the truth is you’ll enjoy Revenge all the more if you read the other two first—and despite extensive explanations, footnotes, and an appendix, you really do need to read the first two.

And once you do read the first two, reading this third one is inexorable.

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Review: Curse of the Spellmans

Curse of the Spellmans
Curse of the Spellmans by Lisa Lutz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Curse of the Spellmans had been waiting for me, patiently, as I crawled through a few other agonizingly slow reads. Here’s how good it was when I finally got to it: 25 hours from page 1 to page 409, (meals, work, sleeping, but no video games).

I’m not a fast reader, but I’ll stick with a tome if I’m enjoying myself. I thoroughly enjoyed Curse of the Spellmans. I knew I was going to read it as soon as I finished The Spellman Files, and as soon as I’m done writing this review, I’m finding the closest library and heading over there for the third in the series.

Ignore the back of the book, where it says “part Bridget Jones, part Columbo.” Nobody’s into both, so it’s only meant to be a surface-level comparison, and it’s wrong. Izzy Spellman’s no stereotype, and these mysteries aren’t so pat. They’re fun, with enough of a serious edge to not come across as goofy or silly.

Because otherwise, the people in Izzy’s life comes across as goofy and silly. But in that way that your own friends and family do—doesn’t mean you don’t respect them. Doesn’t mean they don’t have depth.

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Review: Sharp Objects

Sharp Objects
Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Look at me, turning in a Gillian Flynn scholar. A reluctant one. Like my read of Dark Places, with Sharp Objects I was in a situation where I was done with one book and nothing else to read, nor a handy way to get something new. Sharp Objects already on the e-reader (my wife’s). I realize I’m repeating myself, introducing a review like this. But I think it’s apt: some books are only to be read because there’s nothing else to read.

So, let’s see: I’ve read the Flynn novels now in reverse order of publication. Oddly, this one, Sharp Objects, is the best of the three, in my opinion. I’m trying to damn with faint praise, here—Sharp Objects is only better because Gone Girl has that terrible ending and Dark Places is just gritty and mean and hateful.

Sharp Objects is a bit of a combination of the two. We’re in Missouri, we’re surrounded by people who justify the term “fly-over,” we’re inundated with alcohol, drugs, and sex. What Bret Easton Ellis would have written if instead of a small college town in Vermont, he had pig-factory town in the Midwest to work with.

Most of all, Sharp Objects reaffirms my take from the other Flynn novels: misogynistic. Every female character is cliché, a stereotype. Here’s a direct quote from the main character: “illness sits inside every woman, waiting to bloom.” Go ahead, tell me that this is a fiercely political point of view, more “gonzo feminism.”

Maybe. If the writing was better. If the “twist” ending wasn’t so tossed-in-at-the-last-minute, if half the things the main character did made sense, if, as I mentioned above, the threadbare storyline was patched together with more than sex, and alcohol, and drugs.

If you liked Flowers in the Attic but are all grown up now, you’ll love Sharp Objects. Here’s my prediction: Lena Dunham will star in the film version. Not the creative force-to-be-reckoned-with-Lena from Girls. No, I mean the Lena Dunham who’s been castigated for the terrible things she proudly, gushingly confessed to in her autobiography.

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