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October 19, 2013

Series Saturday: Spellman Files

by Donna Huber

Every blogger experiences at some point - blogger burnout. I felt myself heading for it and took action to stave it off. I started reading for fun; books I wanted to read and have no pressure to review. Now that I've spent the summer relaxing I think I'm feeling a little more refreshed. I caught up on a couple of series that I had some how missed.

The Last Word
My friend and author JB Lynn recommended the Spellman Files by Lisa Lutz. The latest book in the series - The Last Word - was released this summer. As the title suggests this may be the last book in the series. The description at Goodreads, however, refers to it as "the latest installments". The ending left open the possibility of a spin off. For me, though, this is going to be my last book in the series.

Let me start at the beginning with The Spellman Files. It is a quirky read featuring a dysfunctional family of private investigators. Since I was looking for fun reads, I couldn't ask for anything better. The main character Isabel is struggling with growing up. She has misadventures at work and relationships.

I quickly moved on to the second book in the series - Curse of the Spellmans. Again, it filled my need for fun, fluffy read. I could relate to Isabel's struggles. Her family on the other hand, I found slightly annoying. When she wanted to stop being a PI her parents would bug her to come back. When she decided she would be a PI, they did everything to force her out.

I was still enjoying the series with book three - Revenge of the Spellmans. I enjoyed the characters; they were fully developed - even the minor characters. I was reading this series during the summer and it was the perfect light-hearted read. I think it was in this book that the parents really started to get on my nerves. Isabel is sorting through things in her own life, but I'm not sure her family is very supportive.

The struggle over whether to be a PI or not to be is answered in The Spellmans Strike Again. Isabel takes on arch-nemesis, ex-cop and rival PI Rick Harkey. Though Isabel is starting to show adult tendancies, she still not succeeding. And with the parents she has it's no wonder. While trying to right wrongs, Isabel finds herself on the wrong side of the law on a few occasions. We do get introduced to Morty, Isabel's geriatric attorney. With him and detective Henry Stone in her life, Isabel might find the right path - if she would listen to them.

This series is a quick read. I usually read through a book in a few of days, maybe less if it was the weekend. In the beginning, I couldn't wait to get to the next one. But there's a reason why books in a series are spaced out. The whole saying - 'distance makes the heart grow fonder' - applies to books. It wasn't that I wasn't enjoying the series, it was just getting a little, um, stale (?). My annoyance at Isabel's parents hit an all time high in The Trail of the Spellmans. How do they expect Isabel to grow up when they are her role models? The dysfunction running amok was starting to grate on my nerves. I still found myself rooting for Isabel to get her life together and I really thought things were looking up when she accepted Henry's advances.

I finished The Trail of the Spellmans just days after the release of The Last Word. My library is notoriously slow in getting new books into the system, but at the same time I wasn't in a real hurry to get this book. I really felt that the series had run its course. I wanted to read The Last Word just to finish the series. While I was reading through the other books quickly, it took me almost he full two weeks I had the book to finish it. It just wouldn't hold my attention.

Unfortunately, the ending wasn't very satisfying either. I have often wondered what it would be like for a chick-lit novel if it didn't end with the girl getting the guy. I got a glimpse of with The Spellman Files. I think I would have been okay with Isabel not getting the guy (though I still wanted her to be with Henry), if the other pieces of her life had fallen into place. By the end of the series Isabel is my age and maybe I had too much self-identification going on to be satisfied.

The change in narrator at the end may indicate we will get glimpses of Isabel in a spin-off series, but for now I'm finished with the Spellman family.

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  1. I think I may have purchased the first book in the series a few years ago. I never got around to reading it. I'll have to look through my bookshelf and pick it up sometime.

    I experienced the same thing recently. I just have a small blog that's mostly just a hobby for myself, but I began feeling the pressure to read only for review and only the books given to me by publishers. I got so stressed and wasn't enjoying reading at all, so I just quit reading for about 2 months. After 2 months I began missing it really bad and decided from now on I'm only going to read for pleasure and books that I've chosen from my bookshelf.

    1. I've read a few books that were review requests, but I would have read the books even if I wasn't reviewing. I usually read more than 1 book at a time, so for me I think it is balancing a for review book with a no strings attached book.