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I have read five MKA (Mary Kay Andrews) books to date, and savored the first four like a favorite dessert. I can appreciate that she not only sets her books in familiar southern locals but that she is actually FROM the area. Nothing irks me more than people who try to write southern fiction without ever having actually stepped foot below the Mason-Dixon. We don’t all drive pick up trucks or play the banjo, and some of us don’t fry everything we eat for goodness sake. Obviously she is following the old adage to ‘write what you know’ and as a result her first four books were hilarious, irreverent, truly southern novels with strong leading ladies and of course, a little bit of playful romance.

Her characters are imperfect, temperamental, and quirky. Page after page had me laughing out loud. I devoured Savannah Breeze in about 2.5 seconds and fell in love, quickly gobbling up everything else that she had published at the time. I have diligently searched the book stores ever since in search of something new by MKA and, while I liked it enough to finish it (every book gets 100 pages before I make that decision), The Fixer Upper was a decidedly disappointing read.

MKA took a departure from her usual formula to introduce a young and naive character, a recently graduated lobbyist, and sets the beginning of her book in Washington D.C. a far cry from anything even remotely southern. The character as a whole felt forced throughout the book. We’re supposed to believe that she graduated with top honors from high school to undergrad and then finally from Georgetown but that she’s disgustingly oblivious to the political bribery going on around her for the first half of the book until she gets blindsided by a federal investigation, fired from her job, and thrown into a house-flipping situation in a small southern town while inheriting a mean spirited old lady and her dog in the process – all because she had a crush on her much older boss.
Um, what?

I need a little congruity here. You want me to believe that this chick is ridiculously book smart but doesn’t have an ounce of common sense? I had a hard time loving or hating the lead character. I just found her dull and boring. Maybe I’m not a big fan of the constant damsel in distress type, but the heroine in The Fixer Upper has few redeeming qualities. She can’t stand up to either of her divorced parents, her crotchety old roommate, her former boss, the FBI, or anyone else that comes knocking on her door. For the majority of the book, I’d have bet on a wet noodle to have more spine and more than once I caught myself mentally calling her pathetic without feeling sorry for her what so ever.

Throughout the book MKA made obvious attempts to inject her usual easy humor, with the hard-line FBI agents for example, but their pithy one liners were cliche and the character templates themselves too overdone.

Although there were several minor characters worth reading about, a quaint little Georgia town, a glorious old home place, and a bit of family drama I would have loved a more in-depth explanation of, I would not recommend this book to other MKA fans. Her books are generally very entertaining, but this one fell short of the mark.

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Book Review Basics

I’m not a published author or a highly paid critic (I wish), what I happen to be is a disgustingly voracious reader and a strongly opinionated woman. Thanks to the internet, those are the only real credentials I need to slap a review on every book I happen to pick up. Good, Bad, Ugly. If I read it you’re probably going to hear about it and thanks to the lovely used book store not far from my house I’m able to read A LOT.

I credit my love of reading with having helped to develop my vivid imagination and a ridiculously extensive (if underused) vocabulary. I am a stickler for spelling, and have been known to refuse to read a book or watch a movie if the title is misspelled (even intentionally) or if I discover too many mistakes in the first couple of chapters; but punctuation and I have never been friends. Commas are the Devil.

I have read thousands of books. Literally. A two hundred page novel takes me roughly two hours to read and I usually go through at least one a day. Genre doesn’t seem to matter as long as I can pick it up and find myself transported to some other time or place. Everything I read is strictly for pleasure. I don’t look to books for self-help or to glean a lesson. When I read I am looking for a diversion from the every day. I want characters I can identify with and a plot that keeps me on my toes.  I love description but there is a fine line between painting a picture so that I can fill in my own details and trying to cram the minutiae of every scene down my throat. If I can’t envision a room based on a few paragraphs of information, your writing sucks.

I don’t look for hidden symbolism and obscure references to current cultural happenings when I read. A bee is a bee, a bush is a bush, the end. I often said as a teenager that one day I would write a book and when I became famous for writing that book and students were forced to read and discuss it in class, I would attend the lecture and listen while they picked apart every detail and dispelled the simple magic of the story, so that at the end I could stand up and say “No, you’re all wrong, the red wagon in my story is just a red wagon and the old woman does not symbolize death.” I still feel that way, although the chances of my ever becoming a famous writer are slim to none. It all circles back to my procrastination problem, but that’s a different entry.

I love books that keep me guessing, and loathe books that end without a resolution. I don’t have a favorite author(s) as I tend to find someone I like, blow through everything they’ve ever written, and then continue on to something new. I rarely read a book twice, because whatever life station and circumstance made me love that book the first time around are likely to have completely changed by the second read, rendering that experience lackluster in comparison and as a result tarnishing my opinion of a previously treasured book.

Lastly, although this is bound to leave me standing on thin ice within the literary world, I don’t have any kind of deeply ingrained appreciation of ‘the Classics’. In my opinion, nothing should be a certain way simply because that’s the way it’s always been. If that were the case most of us would still have British accents and swear fealty to a King. Ideas grow and change as do the people and situations surrounding them. The paradigm of the world shifts too often to declare what once may have been a jarring social commentary a timelessly applicable work.

Differing opinions are healthy as is the rational discussion of those varying points. Everything found on this blog is simply my opinion and nothing more.

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