The Mama’s #CBR5 Reviews #75 – 80: The Christmas Eve Eve Edition

Because nothing says procrastination with regard to present wrapping like writing a few book reviews…

#75 – While We Were Watching Downton Abbey, by Wendy Wax

#76 – Parlor Games, by Maryka Biaggio

#77 – Addicted to You, by Krista and Becca Ritchie

#78 – Sweet, by Erin McCarthy

#79 – The Other Side of Midnight, by Sidney Sheldon

#80 – Crazy Thing Called Love, by Molly O’Keefe

The Mama’s #CBR5 Book Swap Post!

goldfinchA big thank you to Captain Tuttle, who sent me a copy of The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt!

Despite the fact that my boss told me the book was a “smart book”, implying that I am not smart (even though he reads trashy biographies so he has no room to judge me and my trashy romance novel loving ways), I’ve heard great things about this book, and I’m excited to start it!

(But it does look like a smart book, so I think I’m going to hold on to it till Christmas break when I can shut out the world and just read.)

Book surprises are the best! Thanks so much!!!

The Mama’s #CBR5 Reviews #67 – 74: The I’m Lazy Edition

It’s not that I haven’t read; it’s that I haven’t written any reviews. I knocked a few out last night while waiting for my eleventy-billionth pie/cake/cupcake to finish baking, and a few more this morning, because even though I don’t have to work today, my body still likes to wake up at o’dark thirty. Ahem. Anyway, for your reading pleasure…

#67 – A Hundred Summers, by Beatriz Williams

#68 – We All Sleep in the Same Room, by Paul Rome

#69 – Family Pictures, by Jane Green

#70 – Beyond Eden, by Kele Moon

#71 – Crashing Into You, by B.D. Rowe

#72 – Selling Scarlett, by Ella James

#73 – Thankless in Death, by J.D. Robb

#74 – Autumn Lover, by Elizabeth Lowell

Stay tuned for (hopefully) more reviews written while I’m in a post-turkey coma.

The Mama’s #CBR5 Review #66: Midnight in the Garden of Good & Evil by John Berendt

midnightI first read Midnight about ten years ago, maybe more, but two recent trips to Savannah prompted a re-read. We’re all familiar (either through the book or Clint Eastwood’s film) of the story of Jim Williams, Danny Hansford, and the incomparable Lady Chablis, but with each reading (and each visit), I fall in love with this odd little city a bit more.

For the uninitiated, Berendt’s tale begins with him meeting Jim Williams, an antique dealer, to interview him for a piece in a magazine. While in Savannah, Berendt becomes intrigued with the city, falling in love with it, and eventually renting a small apartment in the historic district. He meets several of the city’s movers and shakers, and quite a few of its less prominent citizens. Fast forward a few years, and Danny Handford is dead, Jim Williams is on trial, and the entire town is abuzz.

Savannah is a strange, beautiful, wonderful place. It’s ancient by American standards, settled in 1733, and at times it gives the air that it hasn’t changed much. Berendt captures the magic of the city, painting not just each character with perfect, vivid strokes, but painting the town as well.

Lady Astor is rumored to have remarked about Savannah that the city is “like a beautiful woman with a dirty face”. I’ve always thought a little dirt kept things interesting. Berendt captures Savannah, her beauty, and her flaws with simple, lyrical perfection.

(And for those wondering, Lady Chablis is still performing once a month, and she is every bit as fierce and fabulous as she was in the film.)

Read more here…

The Mama’s #CBR5 Review #65: Savannah Breeze by Mary Kay Andrews

breezeSavannah Breeze is Mary Kay Andrews’ follow up to Savannah Blues, and while Blues followed the adventures of Weezie, Breeze is her best friend BeBe Loudermilk’s story.

BeBe meets a handsome man at the Telfair Museum gala, and before you know it, she’s fallen in lust with him, and he’s run away with all her money. She’s forced out of her home (he sells it), she loses her business (she has no money), and she is left with nothing but a run down motel out on Tybee Island. The motel comes without furniture or roofs, at least in most rooms, but it also comes with gruffly handsome and mysterious Harry Sorrentino, the manager of sorts.

Harry’s not too thrilled with BeBe, BeBe can’t stand Harry, and she really can’t stand the Breeze Inn. But with no money and no prospects, she has no other choice but to max out her credit cards, fix the place up, and hope for the best. When the handsome cad who stole her money is spotted in Florida, BeBe decides to go after him.

All the old characters from Blues show up here – Weezie, Weezie’s bourbon-loving mom, Uncle James – but the man who steals the show is Grandpa Loudermilk. (In fact, if Grandma Loudermilk wasn’t still around, I’d suggest a Grandpa Loudermilk and Grandma Mazur spin off.) Grandpa tears himself away from the Weather Channel and his bowls of Cap’n Crunch long enough to join BeBe, Harry, and Weezie on their grand adventure to Fort Lauderdale, and the fearsome foursome devise a plan to get BeBe’s money back.

With a nice nod to Travis McGee that won her my loyalty forever, Andrews takes the reader on a fun ride. The only things missing were Lula and Grandma.

Read more here…

The Mama’s #CBR5 Review #64: Dangerous Refuge by Elizabeth Lowell

refugeElizabeth Lowell is one of those authors I can rely on. She gives me a pretty good story, a little sex, some romance, and a fairly strong female lead. I hate romance novels with simpering stupid girls.

In Dangerous Refuge, we meet Shaye Townsend, a woman who has moved to the wilds of Nevada to escape her socialite family. Shaye works for a local conservancy, and is the perfect liason between her glittery, fund-raising boss and the crusty old ranchers they’re trying to help.

The story opens with Shaye finding one of the ranchers dead. Lorne Davis was in his 80s, and so his death wasn’t really a surprise, but something doesn’t seem right to Shaye. Something isn’t sitting well with Lorne’s only nephew, Tanner, either. Tanner’s a Los Angeles homicide detective, and he turns up in Nevada to invesigate the death.

Throw in some nefarious dealings within the converancy, some small town government corruption, and some smoldering moments between Shaye and Tanner, and you’ve got yourself a nice little Saturday afternoon romance. Lowell may be formulaic at times, but she always delivers.

Read more here…

The Mama’s #CBR5 Review #63: Chanel Bonfire by Wendy Lawless

chanelIn this heartbreakingly funny memoir, Wendy Lawless details her childhood with her mother, a woman whose picture belongs in the dictionary next to the word narcissist. And the word addict. And substance abuser. And, quite possibly, the word horrible.

Lawless’ mother personifies self-indulgence. She whisks Wendy and her sister from trailer parks to New York City to London and back again, cutting their father out of their lives, and wreaking havoc on two very impressionable teenage girls. Swanning about in her blue pegnoir set (and I could just picture the marabou mules that I’m sure went with it), stinking of cigarettes and too much perfume, her mother tells the girls that if they weren’t pretty, she would have left them years ago. Two stories in particular stood out to me. In one, Lawless tells her mother that she has a crush on their lawn boy, and the next day, watches as she dons a halter top and short shorts and seduces the lawn boy in a tent in the back yard. The lawn boy is never heard from again. In another, it is her younger sister’s high school graduation day. Lawless receives a phone call from the school principal, asking her to “get down to the school right now”. When she arrives, her mother has driven her car across the lawn, up to the stage on the football field, and, dressed in her pale blue nightie, she is stumbling about the school grounds. When Lawless arrives, her mother hops in her car, drives off, and isn’t heard from for several days, when she arrives back home as though nothing has happened.

Lawless is a smart, funny writer with a wickedly sharp wit. There’s the old adage about how you can either laugh or cry, and she’s chosen to laugh, and to make us laugh as well. This memoir is horrifyingly sad, but Lawless never allows you to feel sorry for her. She is a survivor, and she has not only survived, but she has thrived.

Read more here…

The Mama’s #CBR5 Review #62: By Design by Jayne Denker

designEmmie is an interior designer, stuck in a dead end job as the assistant to the town’s interior designer, and he keeps Emmie around to pour the coffee and answer the phones. Emmie is frustrated with her life, and on a whim, looks up old classmates on line. Which, of course, leads to some awkward reunions, but along the way, she winds up meeting The Man of Her Dreams, Graham Cooper, a widowed father and local contractor.

The only problem is Graham is otherwise engaged, and it turns out that he’s involved with a former classmate of Emmie’s named Juliet. Juliet, however, needs to keep her relationship with Graham under wraps because she’s not quite divorced, and her husband thinks they’re working on things. So Graham and Emmie begin a relationship, only they keep theirs quiet, too, because Juliet is “too unstable” for Graham to break things off with her. Add to that the fact that Graham drops everything and runs every time Juliet calls, and I was ready to throw the book across the room.

Of course there’s a happily ever after ending, complete with Juliet reconciling with her husband, and Graham and his motherless child falling in love with Emmie, and Emmie striking out on her own business-wise, but I couldn’t help wondering when Graham’s head was going to be turned by the next Juliet to come down the road.

Full disclosure that I read this book while my kid was getting her tonsils out, so I was sitting in a hospital waiting room (and those consultation rooms aren’t exactly big) with my former husband, a man who shares more than one trait with Juilet and Graham. Probably not my wisest choice, and I’m sure that’s coloring my review, but for a “romantic comedy” or “chick lit” book, all I could think was that Graham was a big fat jerk and Juliet was not a friend I’d want to have.

Read more here…

The Mama’s #CBR5 Review #61: Big Girl Panties by Stephanie Evanovich

pantiesHolly, a young widower, meets Logan, a too-good-to-be-real trainer to the sports stars, on a flight back from some sort of business relating to her late husband’s estate. Holly is overweight, having turned to food to dull the loneliness of widowhood. She makes a self-deprecating remark about squashing Logan, and before you know it, Logan is offering his trainer services to Holly.

To Holly’s surprise – and Logan’s – she shows up. And she continues to show up and do the work, and the weight starts to come off. Along the way, Holly and Logan form a pretty tight friendship, and they both begin to fall for the other. Holly is all too aware that she’s not Logan’s usual type, and Logan, who runs in the circle of the Beautiful People, is all too aware that Holly isn’t beautiful enough.

There’s also a weird B story that felt like Evanovich was trying to cash in on the 50 Shades hoopla. Logan’s best friend Chase, a star baseball player, and his wife Amanda befriend Holly, and through the course of the story, we discover that when Amanda “acts out”, Chase spanks her. It turns out that this was captured on surveillance video early in the relationship, which was then made public, which of course embarassed the daylights out of Amanda. Amanda uses this story to make Holly feel better about the possibility that she may be embarrased in the tabloids because of her weight.

And that’s where I started to get really angry. Evanovich describes Holly, but never describes her in a way that makes me think she’s morbidly obese. Holly seems a little chubby to me, but nothing that could be considered freakishly large. And yes, good for Holly for wanting to lose weight, for wanting to be healthy, but Holly seemed even more miserable after the weight loss than before. But the final blow for me came when Logan came to the realization that even though Holly was never going to be a size two, skinny little blonde supermodel, he supposed that she was good enough for him.

Quite frankly, Holly, you’re too good for a jackass like Logan.

Read more here…

The Mama’s #CBR5 Review #60: Last Night at Chateau Marmont by Lauren Weisberger

chateauFrom the author of The Devil Wears Prada comes the story of Brooke and Julian Alter. Brooke is a nutrionist working two jobs to support Julian, a better-than-average musician who is hoping to make it big. When Julian is discovered, he rockets to fame, and Brooke feels as though she’s left in the dust.

Brooke struggles with being supportive of Julian while she continues to maintain her career. She is enchanted with the sudden glamour of her husband’s new life, but feels completely out of place among the glitterati. Things become tense when Julian begins appearing in the tabloids, and even more tense when Brooke is seemingly left behind to clean up the messes Julian is leaving.

The story wasn’t horrible, and Weisberger did a nice job of commenting on how quickly we elevate our celebrities to hero status, and how quickly we help them fall. But I disliked every character. I found Brooke whiny and irritating and Julian was an overgrown boy in a man’s body. And I didn’t think it was possible for characters in a book to not have any chemistry, but these two had less than zero.

Unfortunately, Chateau Marmont was no Devil.

Read more here…