Category Archives: Reviews

Beatrice Hyde-Clare Mysteries Series by Lynn Messina

I picked up A Brazen Curiosity, the first book in the Beatrice Hyde-Clare Mysteries Series, as one of the daily Amazon freebies. I was skeptical but quickly fell in love with the story. No surprise there. I mean, Regency + Cozy Mysteries? My favorite easy read genres! 

I have since devoured the entire series. 

The story follows Beatrice Hyde-Clare, a 26-year-old spinster with a propensity for finding dead bodies. After a lifetime of timidity, she finally decides to stand up for herself…by solving murders! 

It is a lighthearted, comical series with a swoon-worthy romantic interest and some predictable, albeit fun plots. Beatrice is a fun, matter of fact heroine. There are a lot of amusing, egotistical side characters. 

And did I mention the hero is s-w-o-o-n-worthy?!

I recommend checking out the series.

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China Rich Girlfriend (aka Crazy Rich Asians #2)

I’ve been reading China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kwan over the last few days and let me tell you, it is one weird book.

China Rich Girlfriend (Crazy Rich Asians, #2)

Like, the first one was weird. No doubt about it. But maybe because I saw the movie first, I could follow what was going on fairly easily. Not so with China Rich Girlfriend. Months, years even, pass from chapter to chapter. Characters come and go intermittently. It is hard to pin-point who the main character(s) are because they seem to change and only a few consistently circle back again. 

It is sheer sensory overload. I feel vaguely exhausted every time I pick it up. In some ways I deeply admire how the author keeps it all going but in other ways I just cannot wait to be done!


Keep Moving: And Other Truths About Living Well Longer by Dick Van Dyke

Keep Moving: And Other Truths About Living Well Longer by Dick Van Dyke – 3/5 stars

If deciding between this one or My Lucky Life in and Out of Show Business, an earlier memoir by Dick Van Dyke, read this one. It is shorter, contains many of the same stories, and actually was a little bit more interesting. Not that I consider that saying much. See my review of My Lucky Life.

Dick Van Dyke gives more opinions in this book. He takes a stand and I like that. He talks about his favorite presidents, historical events he lived through, and his daily routine. It actually provides a picture of who he is, not just people he knows.

But I think it falls into the same trap his earlier memoir does. I really feel like his earlier memoir lost me when he started justifying his divorce from his first wife. ‘She didn’t understand.’ ‘He was caught between two strong women.’ ‘Show business was his life! He needed someone who understood that.’ etc. etc.

Here the justification is not why he left his wife but why his third wife is 43 years younger than himself.

(Frankly, I’m more curious as to why he never “got around” to marrying the palimony woman. There is a good story there. You don’t live with a person 30+ years and just “forget” to get married! Especially not her!)

But anyway, if this book has a theme besides thoughts on growing old, it is a justification of his new wife (who is about the same age as his grandchildren.) 

I enjoyed it. It was a fast read. And I think my favorite takeaway came at the beginning where he says, I paraphrase, “When you are in your 20s, you have Plan A. When you are in your 40s, it is Plan B. And when you make it to your 70s, you finally realize there is no plan at all.”


My Lucky Life In and Out of Show Business by Dick Van Dyke

(Wrote this review a few weeks ago but honestly it is this or my rambles about the evidence quiz I just completed. Consider yourself fortunate.) 

My Lucky Life In and Out of Show Business by Dick Van Dyke – 2/5 stars

I struggle with giving this book a low rating: I mean, it is Dick Van Dyke! He is classic. He is defining. We all cheered loudly when he appeared in Mary Poppins Returns because he is, simply, an icon of multiple generations now. Picking up this book, my question was not if it would be great but how great.

The thing is…there is not much of interest here. Oh, I suppose as a recap of Dick Van Dyke’s life it is interesting enough. He worked hard, embraced many cool opportunities, and overcame quite a bit. But it fails to satisfy in any regard.

  • As a look at life in Hollywood, it provides very few details besides a list of people he met, worked with, or particularly liked.
  • As a narrative of his varied acting experiences, he gives very few (almost no) details besides how much he loved the Dick Van Dyke Show. (Did you know everyone thought his co-star was his wife? He will remind you of it. Often.)
  • As a story of his life, it provides the facts but often with little more than you would expect from a Wikipedia page. His wife’s early miscarriage, his own alcoholism and affair, the loss of a granddaughter…none of it gets more than lightly brushed over.

If there is one reoccurring theme, it is his seemingly deistic perspective on “love” and “good works.” In short, his worldview boils down to everyone should be the affable, non-confrontational person that Dick Van Dyke is. And really, what this book is.

It is a very bland, very polite, very grateful, but altogether uninspiring story. Which is too bad. It didn’t need lots of Hollywood gossip. But it did need a little more vulnerability to make it more than an informational, and yet somehow uninformative, story.


Old Reviews

It throws me for a loop every time someone likes an old review of mine on Goodreads. Even if it was a review I wrote earlier in the year, I feel surprise. Obviously I know they are out there. I re-read them myself semi-regularly. But I still go, how did you find my review? Why this one? Is this what fame feels like?

Take today. I got likes for My Lucky Life In and Out of Show Business by Dick Van Dyke, American Panda by Gloria Chao, The Road to Serfdom by Friedrich Hayek, Peter Pan in Scarlet by Geraldine McCaughrean, and Sapphire Blue by Kirsten Gier. So random! And not one like for the book review I just posted. (You can see my real disgruntlement.) 

My review of Sapphire Blue is my big claim to fame, actually. I wrote it in 2012 and it now has 70 likes! Don’t ask me why. I certainly put more thought and articulation into other reviews before and after. But that’s the one that consistently pops up!


Aristophanes

Aristophanes was a Greek playwright who lived from roughly 446 BC to 386 BC. He wrote comedies that lampooned the notables of his day and mocked the uber-manly honor culture of ancient Athens. 

He was also incredibly, incredibly vulgar. 

The Loeb Classical Library translation does its best to translate his plays the way an early Greek audience would have understood them, i.e. with loads of f-bombs and poop jokes. 

We read two of his plays for the class I TA in: Frogs and Assemblywomen. (I’ve also read his Clouds and Wealth this year as part of an attempt to broaden my knowledge of Greek playwrights.) Honestly, without the professor’s explanation, I’d have no idea why the plays were so good. 

But I think I would still have laughed out loud. For all his vulgarity, Aristophanes is funny. The dialogues still jump off the page.

There is something truly remarkable about seeing a joke over 2,000 years later and still finding it funny. As most of his jokes involve bodily functions I suppose you could say it doesn’t say much for humanity’s sense of humor. But then again…at least we’re consistent. 


Only Ever Her by Marybeth Mayhew Whalen

LOOK at this cover. Doesn’t it look amazing?

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Judged by the cover, this easily ranks as a 5 star read. Alas, not all books live up to their look. 

Only Ever Her tells the story of Annie Taft: a woman about to get married who learns her mother’s murderer is being let out of prison. Her testimony as a three-year-old put him in jail. Anxious to escape her notorious past as a murdered woman’s daughter, she nevertheless agrees to support his release on the grounds that her testimony was probably an unreliable one. 

Then, four days before her wedding, Annie disappears. 

Told from the switching viewpoint of five different people, Only Ever Her started off interestingly enough. By the end, though, I was heartily ready to be done with it. As a disclaimer, I must admit that I do not normally read thrillers and a good chunk of my critique really comes down to my reaction to the genre in general. 

There is just too much melodrama for the story to feel believable. Everyone hides a skeleton in their closet. No one is quite honest, either with themselves or with one another. Every relationship is heavy, tangled, and angsty. 

And then it all wraps up and I guess we’re supposed to…what? Be like, ‘Gee, glad that worked out the way it did’? ‘What a great moral lesson about how humans suck.’ 

It is someone’s cup of tea, just not mine.

Further, being a law student made this one hard to read. I kept inwardly flinching at time lines (the man put away for Annie’s mother’s murder got release within days of announcing an appeal, which would never happen) or the behavior of the police. (Are they trying to get all the evidence thrown out of court?!)

But if you do like contemporary suspense dramas, you will probably enjoy it. It was fast paced and easy to read.