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Monthly Archives: January 2012

Larry Batchelor’s first novel, Miss Fannie Mae’s Girls, is a compelling story about a small-town family in Georgia. It focuses on the five daughters of Fannie Mae Turner and how they reunite after her death. Though there are many underlying themes here, this novel is just as much about culture in the Deep South as it is about the dynamics of family and specifically, about the love/hate dynamics of sisterhood. And as with most towns and families, there are always secrets and reasons to gossip. The death of Fannie Mae brings Belle (“Lil Buck”), Nettie (“Sis”), Rosalie (“Big Red”), Christine (“Sweetie Pie”), and Elenora (“Girlie”) back together in a time of bereavement, change, and celebration.

There were moments in this novel that literally made me laugh out loud and other moments that made me worry someone would walk in and see I was teary eyed. I loved every time Christine misused a word and anything that came out of the flamboyant Marshall Tate’s mouth. And I’m not much of a cook, but I think I might have to experiment with some of those Southern-style recipes that are printed in the back of the novel.

What is especially interesting about the five sisters is their strong, unique, and clashing personalities. Throughout the story, we see them grow and change because of Fannie Mae’s death. And even though Fannie Mae is not present, she is a well-developed character who is the driving force of this story. Everything that happens is only possible because of her, and even in death she is able to get what she wanted for her daughters: unity and happiness. Although they are initially gathered because of a funeral, they end up celebrating a marriage.  

Culture and tradition are such important elements of this novel, and they are quite beautifully illustrated from the introduction of major and minor characters right down to the subtle presence of delicious Southern food. Another theme in this novel is change and the town is not the same racist, close-minded community it was when Fannie Mae was growing up. In that sense, there are many underlying elements of acceptance and forgiveness on a small and large scale.

While there are great male characters in this novel, the women are the ones that dominate in this story. In a nutshell: Belle is the loyal one, Nettie is the quiet one, Rosalie is the loud one, Christine is the strange one, and Elenora is the actress that never made it. Without giving too much away, Elenora goes through the most positive change, redeeming herself and reclaiming the life she left behind so many years ago despite the rumors. Though she seems one way at the beginning, she surprises everyone, including herself.     

The story of this family coming together is sweet and touching. Larry Batchelor is a promising writer and his ability to show the dynamics of this family makes me wonder what he may come up with next. Each one of these women can stand on her own and I’d love to read more about each one of Miss Fannie Mae’s girls in the future.  

Image of Miss Fannie Mae’s Girls


Book 1 of Michelle Gamble-Risley’s California Girl Chronicles is not what you’d expect—it sure wasn’t what I expected anyway. And I’ll admit I wasn’t disappointed at all. Everyone loves an entertaining, escape-for-awhile novel, and that is exactly what Brea & the City of Plastic is. Book 1 takes us through Brea Harper’s journey of moving to Los Angeles to make it as a screenwriter, while going through some fun, sexy, humiliating, and heartbreaking moments along the way. In a world where business and professional lines are blurred, this novel is more than appropriately titled, and there’s never a dull moment.

While Brea may be a born-and-raised Cali girl, women everywhere can relate to her on some level. She is genuine, unpredictable, good-hearted, at times fickle, and well-aware of her flaws, which makes her all the more likable. There are moments where she is vulnerable and other moments where she is strong. Who can’t relate to that? I found myself having shake-my-head moments when Brea knowingly makes mistakes as well as ha-take-that moments when she triumphs.

The characters Brea meets along the way are as equally intriguing and multi-dimensional as Brea, with some you will love to hate, others you will hate to love, and everything in between. While I was rooting for Brea every step of the way, I also couldn’t get enough of Brea’s love interests, especially Kale, the successful, sexy, almost too-good-to-be-true movie producer who is head over heels for her. And add into the mix Brea’s new and old friends, including Kale’s Latina housekeeper, Maya, and Brea’s straightforward roommate, Denise.

Michelle’s first novel is refreshingly honest. With Brea, we see and experience things that most women think but rarely admit. The narration is playful and humorous, though we can easily feel Brea’s conflict and dilemmas at the right moments. The dialogue is enticing yet real, which Michelle uses to bring more depth to her characters than initially meets the eye. Since Book 1 is such a fun read, I can’t wait to see what new adventure Brea will take in Book 2. Honestly, I think I may like this even more than Sex and the City.

Image of California Girl Chronicles – Soft-cover Edition