Category Archives: fun read

Series Obsession: Aunt Dimity by Nancy Atherton

29th July 2015

My reading has taken a distinctly different path since I complained about my “all cozy mystery, all the time” reading diet. However, reading about the Pacific War all the time could get a girl down, so for every nonfiction book or so, I throw in a cozy mystery.

My first experience with Aunt Dimity was Aunt Dimity & the Lost Prince back in 2013, and as fun as I proclaimed the series, it wasn’t until this year that I picked her up again. Since then, I’ve read six others, and Atherton’s latest, Aunt Dimity & the Summer King is no less charming. Aunt Dimity isn’t exactly a ghost, per se…but she does “speak” to Lori Shepherd through her notebook. For someone who really hates reading anything supernatural, Dimity’s presence doesn’t bother me. In fact, she is frank enough to often put Lori in her place when she needs it, something more cozy mystery heroines could use.

In Aunt Dimity & the Summer King, Lori’s beloved Finch seems to be in some kind of trouble. There are rumors of a developer coming in, changing the pastoral neighborhood (nosy neighbors and all!), and pricing out the locals.

But Lori can’t get any inside information. Upset about the possibility and distracted by family events and a looming birthday, Lori is thrilled when she meets her father-in-law’s eccentric neighbor Arthur Hargreaves. However, his name is mud with Lori’s neighbors over some ages-old feud between Finch and the adjacent village, of which Hargreaves is a part.

Lori (with Aunt Dimity’s ever-present help) is just the person to sort out such a mess and put to bed old grudges.

Aunt Dimity & the Deep Blue Sea was one of my favorites. Lori’s husband Bill receives a series of death threats. Scotland Yard believes it must be a former client (Bill is a family estate attorney), but to be safe, Lori and the boys are ferried to a remote island off the Scottish coast. The boys have their own bodyguard, as does Lori. But the island is harsh and unforgiving, proven when a human skull washes ashore.

A chance encounter with a family friend puts even more suspicion in Lori’s head, and with the evidence mounting, Lori is sure the island’s inhabitants have a secret.

More suspenseful than others I’ve read in this series, Aunt Dimity & the Deep Blue Sea would be a great entry into the series.

In Aunt Dimity & the Family Tree, Lori’s hair is on fire. She’s attempting to event plan and hire her father-in-law’s staff all at one time. When a local gets herself into trouble, Aunt Dimity offers up a plan that’s sure to work…if absolutely everything goes perfectly. But of course, in Finch, there is no perfect, but Lori is more concerned about Willis, Sr. and his new live-in staff. They’re a little too good at their jobs, and Lori worries they may be trying to hoodwink her father-in-law.

Dimity keeps her from jumping to too many conclusions, and she learns a lot more than she bargains for by the end of the day.

Aunt Dimity seems to be a well-loved series, as each time I mention it or post a book on Facebook or Goodreads, someone comments. There’s little violence here, but Atherton’s look at village life in the Cotswolds has me aching to visit.

*While Aunt Dimity & the Summer King was sent to me by the publisher for review, I have purchased the other Aunt Dimity books I have read and have given my honest opinion of each.

Review: The Drake Equation by Heather Walsh

23rd January 2014

pg1*I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Emily Crossley and Robert Drake would never be matched up on eharmony or match.com. Each is passionate about politics and his or her own key issues. Emily works for a nonprofit devoted to ridding the planet of gas-guzzling SUVs. Robert is a businessman whose business it is to market those same SUVs.

When they meet at an anti-SUV rally Emily hosts, sparks fly…but less from lust and more from a sense of righteousness. Robert follows up with a string of emails, and Emily is intrigued, asking him out before she loses her nerve. As Emily and Robert’s arguments grow more and more heated, so does their attraction.

But how do you reconcile an attraction to someone so inappropriate for you on paper? Emily and Robert both struggle with this, yet each is level headed and logical, able to articulate their stances in ways that aren’t offensive to the other. Plus, there’s more to each than politics. Robert loves astronomy. Emily loves to read. At one point, Emily even questions whether she uses her politics as a way to separate herself from others, a moment of brutal honesty. But it is each character’s openness with one another that allows them to fall in love until Robert’s demanding job overwhelms any chance they have of being together.

At first glance, The Drake Equation made me nervous. Not only is it a romance novel, but it’s also a novel involving two characters whose political beliefs are diametrically opposed. To be together, miraculously, neither Robert nor Emily suddenly changes his or her political beliefs. Neither one gives up a career for the other. That’s not to say that Robert and Emily don’t change or compromise, but so often in romance novels, one or the other of the characters in the couple makes a change that makes my skin crawl a bit. Heather Walsh avoids that and creates a cast of intelligent, thoughtful characters without unrealistic obstacles getting in the way of love, making The Drake Equation the perfect romance novel for people who hate romance novels.

Add this to your Goodreads shelf.

Review: Is Everyone Hanging out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling

24th October 2013

pg1*I bought this book.

What can I say? The Mindy Project absolutely makes me laugh.

This book? I laughed so much just in her intro, I knew I had to buy it. Plus, it’s eminently quotable.

Mindy (I can totally call her that because we’re bffs now, so deal) breaks her book up into a look at her childhood, life in New York, Hollywood, romance, and body image. It’s more structured than Tina Fey’s Bossypants, but it also has an interesting generational difference. Sure, Kaling relates stories of photo shoots and sample size dresses designed to fit no one. But she also doesn’t quite have the roadblocks Fey seems to have. Reading these two books back to back, particularly knowing the age difference here isn’t all that much, made for a great look at women in comedy. Both address the ridiculous “women can’t be funny” in anticipated humorous ways. Yet there is an awareness in Kaling’s book, a liberation of sorts, that wasn’t apparent in Bossypants. In a sense, Mindy is able to worry about everyone hanging out without her whereas Tina Fey was scrambling to even get in the door.

I do think Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? is better written, and though the writing is simple, the timing of the humor as well as the arc of each essay is really excellent.

And I can’t leave you without hints of the humor:

Is this one of those guide books celebrities write for girls?

Oh, hell no. I’m only marginally qualified to be giving advice at all. My body mass index is certainly not ideal, I frequently use my debit card to buy things that cost less than three dollars, because I never have cash on me, and my bedroom is so untidy it looks like vandals ransacked the Anthropologie Sale section. I’m kind of a mess.

*****

Unlike other athletes, Frisbee people won’t let it go. My theory is that this is because there’s a huge overlap between people who are good at Frisbee and people who do Teach for America. The same instinct to make at-risk kids learn, which I admire so much, becomes deadly when turned on friends trying to relax on a Sunday afternoon in the park….I don’t want to learn! I don’t want to learn! Let me read Shopaholic Runs for Congress in peace!

*****

I WILL TRY TO LIKE YOUR BOYFRIEND FIVE TIMES

This is a fair number of times to hang out with your boyfriend and withhold judgment.

IF OUR PHONE CONVERSATION GETS DISCONNECTED, THERE’S NO NEED TO CALL BACK

I get it. You get it. We take forever getting off the phone anyway. This was a blessing.

*****

I’ll wait while you add this to your Goodreads shelf.

Review: Bossypants by Tina Fey

23rd October 2013

pg1

I am a latecomer in terms of appreciation of the hilarity of Tina Fey. I once thought she really wasn’t all that funny. It took half a dozen episodes of 30 Rock (watched when all my other shows were off season) for me to appreciate it. But then? I couldn’t get over the wisdom of Tina Fey’s character Liz Lemon. I was spouting off Liz Lemonisms way too frequently.

So when I quoted her one too many times to my brother in a text, he asked if I had read Bossypants yet. Which, of course, I hadn’t. I promptly paid much more than I ever do for an ebook ($7.99, if I recall) and began reading. By afternoon, I was finished.

Bossypants is, as many collections of personal essays are, a bit all over the place. The writing isn’t phenomenal. There are moments when it isn’t even that funny, so don’t go in expecting early David Sedaris. That said, Fey’s story of her life prior to her run as Sarah Palin on Saturday Night Live and Liz Lemon on 30 Rock is pretty special. It’s more of an insider’s view backstage those two shows than anything else, so if you aren’t familiar with either, then Bossypants may not be for you.

And she does bring the funny:

Q: Is 30 Rock the most racist show on television?

A: No, in my opinion it’s NFL football. Why do they portray all those guys as murderers and rapists?

*****

(By the way, when Oprah Winfrey is suggesting you may have overextended yourself, you need to examine your fucking life.)

*****

We began our breast-feeding journey in the hospital under the tutelage of an encouraging Irish night nurse named Mary. We tried the football hold, the cross-cradle hold, and one I like to call the Bret Michaels, where you kind of lie over the baby and stick your breast in its mouth to wake it up.

*****

Lesson learned? When people say, “You really, really must” do something, it means you don’t really have to. No one ever says, “You really, really must deliver the baby during labor.” When it’s true, it doesn’t need to be said.

*****

I have a suspicion – and hear me out, ’cause this is a rough one – I have a suspicion that the definition of “crazy” in show business is a woman who keeps talking even after no one wants to fuck her anymore.

The only person I can think of that has escaped the “crazy” moniker is Betty White, which, obviously, is because people still want to have sex with her.

*****

At times, such as in the last bit of dark humor, Bossypants seems to bemoan the fact that women in television haven’t come all that far, but by virtue of Fey’s prominence (and I would include Amy Poehler here), it’s evident that the strides, though small, are being made. And I plan to review Mindy Kaling’s book tomorrow, a similar book but one that varies in pretty significant ways, i.e. generational differences. [Tip: Everyone I know who has read this has raved about the audio, and as I could hear Tina Fey’s voice as I read, I can imagine it’d be a pretty good listen.]

Add this to your Goodreads shelf.

Review: The Bat by Mary Roberts Rinehart

1st October 2013

bat*I received this galley from the publisher Open Road Media* through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Master criminals. Dead bats as calling cards. A young couple in distress. The Bat by Mary Roberts Rinehart has it all and then some.

Courtleigh Fleming has recently passed away, shortly before his bank closes its doors after money and a cashier go missing. Mr. Fleming’s nephew rents out his uncle’s country house to Cornelia Van Gorder. But The Bat, a master criminal who continually defies the best detectives, is said to be in the area. After Miss Van Gorder receives several threatening, anonymous notes, she is sure the Bat is closing in. But Cornelia Van Gorder isn’t one to back down, and with her maid Lizzie, her niece Dale, the Japanese butler Billy and the various other guests in the house, she is determined to uncover the Bat’s true identity and the connection to the Fleming estate.

A novel based on a play (The Bat) based on a novel (The Circular Staircase), The Bat is a perfectly fun romp. As Ryan says in his great review over at Wordsmithsonia, there is definitely a bit of Noises Off or Arsenic and Old Lace hilarity in this mystery, as mysteriously locked and unlocked doors as well as inconvenient power outages assist the constant confusion among characters. Though I did figure out the villain prior to the last pages, I thought the denouement ingeniously done and thoroughly enjoyed this period novel – complete with gems from Cornelia Van Gorder:

“Sally doesn’t remember when she was a younger generation herself…But I do – and if we didn’t have automobiles, we had buggies – and youth doesn’t change its ways just because it has cut its hair.”

********

“Miss Van Gorder, I confess-I’m very anxious for you,” he continued. “This letter is ominous. Have you any enemies?”

“Don’t insult me! Of course I have. Enemies are an indication of character.”

Add this to your Goodreads shelf.

P.S. They’re not paying me to say this, but Open Road consistently puts out some of the best covers for reprints I’ve seen. I want every one of the Mary Roberts Rinehart collection and would love if they would posterfy (I know it’s not a word) their cover art.