I have another Janet Evanovich read-alike for you.  I wanted to include Lisa Lutz’s Spellman series when I talked about Donna Andrews and Deborah Coonts but ran out of room.

  Ms. Lutz was a panelist at a session I attended at the Public Library Association Conference.  She good-naturedly shared some emails from her “fans” who wrote to tell her how awful her characters are and that reading a Spellman book is like staring a traffic accident as you drive by.

I was intrigued.  I just had to read an author who could laugh with us about all the terrible things people were saying about her books.  Plus she now has 5 books in the series so they can’t be that bad.  Right?  About half way through the first book of this series about a family of private investigators it hit me; this is like the irresistible urge to stare at a traffic accident!

The Spellmans are the poster children for dysfunctional.  They spy on each other, lie and scheme, bribe each other, and are fascinating in that stare at a car wreck kind of way.  Twenty-eight year old Izzie Spellman, who has been working for the family firm since the age of 12, is a quirky, appealing heroine with some not very admirable traits.  The rest of the clan is Mom and Dad Spellman, perfect brother David, 14 year old sister Rae who follows strangers for fun, and Uncle Ray.

The first book, The Spellman Files, is our introduction to the family and it takes half the book to complete the initial introduction.  I will admit that at about that half way point I thought I don’t know if I like these people and where’s this going?  But by the last page a mystery had been solved, the Spellman’s revealed they have some redeeming qualities, and I was fascinated and entertained in a way I’m not sure I can explain and think is addictive.

  However, if reading about a dysfunctional family of PIs does not appeal, you might want to check out A World of Curiosities: Surprising, Interesting, and Downright Unbelievable Facts from Every Nation on the Planet.  John Oldale has compiled a collection of unusual facts about every nation on earth.  Some of his facts come from personal experience, he has visited 90 of those nations, and for the rest he has 150,000+ references you can peruse via the internet.

This book reads like an almanac with each country getting at least one page of facts.  For some of the entries the source is sited on the page; i.e. New Zealand is #1 for Most Peaceful States with the reference listed as the Global Peace Index.  New Zealand scores a 100 and Iraq scores a 0.

This is not a book you will read cover to cover but one you’ll pick up from time to time and then get lost in the trivia.  For instance did you know that the most dangerous female sport in the United States is cheerleading?  71% of all college-level female sports injuries are from cheerleading.  Other interesting facts about the USA: we eat almost a ton of pizza each minute; the average lifespan of a Major League baseball is 6 pitches; and some of our Presidents had unusual pets such as Thomas Jefferson’s bears, Herbert Hoover’s alligators, and George W. Bush’s cow.

As you travel around the globe you will also find that the country with the most pyramids is not Egypt but the Sudan.  Moldova has the highest per capita rate of death by powered lawnmower.  And in Paraguay 93% of the prison population is awaiting trial.

Did you know that the first brand of instant coffee was developed in Guatemala in 1906 by Englishman George Washington?  Or that Denmark has the world’s highest taxes, the most expensive electricity and, according to the U.S. National Science Foundation, is the happiest country in the world?

All of this and so much more awaits you as you browse through this entertaining book covering the nations of the world.

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