Tuesday, January 21, 2014

TAG TEAM TUESDAY - Magnolia Blossoms by Rhonda Dennis

Life isn't easy--especially when you're the reclusive daughter of a melodramatic attorney openly mocked for his commercials, and a free-spirited mother who gives art lessons in the nude. Their over the top personalities make it easy for the sheltered and introverted Magnolia Berrybush to swim in a sea of anonymity--until the day she finally snaps.

Desperate to break free from a clandestine world above her parents' garage, she devises a plan to make her mark--serial killing! Unfortunately, she discovers that her heart and stomach aren’t ready to handle the life of a cold-blooded murderer, so she’s forced to move on to Plan B.

During her ill-fated attempt at achieving infamy, Magnolia meets Honey LeReaux, a hooker who is well past her prime. Ironically, Magnolia begins to blossom as she plunges head first into a seedy world, but realizes that smutty books and adult films have done little to prepare her for the real world.

Will Magnolia ever break free, or is she destined to live her life hiding in the shadows of her secret world?

Meet the Author

Rhonda Dennis is proud to be born and raised in South Louisiana.  Her enthusiasm
for the uniqueness of Louisiana's culture is evident in her writing.  Even though she loved writing, she put it on hold to work in the medical field. 
After starting a family, she went back to college where her passion was
reignited and Rhonda wrote her first novel, Going Home,  Book One of the Green Bayou Novel Series.  Rhonda lives in a small town in South Louisiana with her husband, Doyle, and her son, Sean.  She appreciates the outdoors, spending time with her family and friends, and loves cooking.

Shawn's Review

5 Hilarious and Heartwarming Stars!!! 
Magnolia's story turned out to be so much more than I expected.  It started out as the most hilarious book I've ever read, but turned out to have real heart.  It evoked real emotion from me.   Dennis excelled in creating larger-than-life characters as well as down to earth “real” people.  Anyone that knows my reading taste knows character development is high on the list of things I want to see in a book.  Dennis did not disappoint.  There are layers of story that are deeper than just your run of the mill “ugly duckling turned into beautiful swan” tale. The symbolism throughout is something I appreciated about the book, too.  People’s outsides don’t always match their insides and sometimes we only see what they want us to see.  Dennis demonstrates this in more ways than one as she takes us on this roller coaster ride.  In the end, we’re rewarded with the concepts that sometimes good guys do finish first and the underdog can’t always be counted out.    It’s been a while since a book has put that uncomfortable lump in my throat and a tear in my eye, so kudos to you, Rhonda Dennis.  Thank you for writing this story filled with laughter (my kind of humor, by the way), pain, strength, triumph, love and hope.   I'm sad to say goodbye to Magnolia and the gang, but feel completed satisfied with the airtight ending you gave us.

Michele's Review

Just a few pages into this book and I was laughing hysterically.  Not just a haha laugh, but honest to goodness gut busting, pee your pants, people think you are crazy laughing.  But that isn’t all this book has to offer. There is an underlying theme of redemption throughout this book.  It’s a late coming of age story in which our heroine, Magnolia Berrybush at the age of 32 transforms from the shy, introverted, clumsy, ugly duckling to an amazing swan.  Along the way, Maggie forms what should be an unlikely, and definitely unconventional friendship with a hooker named Honey LaReaux.  Mayhem and hi-jinxs rule the day. It seems that where ever Magnolia goes, trouble follows.

Rhonda’s descriptions of the people and places, harken me back to the hot and humid days of my youth where the author and I grew up.  I can vividly picture each of the characters in this book like I knew them at one time in my life.  She has masterfully painted a colorful picture of the transformation of the dull and boring life in which Maggie was afraid of the world and herself, into the joie de vivre that Louisianans hold so dear.  Along the way she weaves in characters that are endearing and entertaining.  Rhonda Dennis, you are the Cajun Janet Evanovich! 

The story doesn’t end there, Rhonda wraps it up so tightly and completely that in a way, I was a little disappointed, as I would have loved to have the story continue.  But what an ending!!  Be sure to empty your bladder, grab a box of tissues, clear the room of people who don’t want you laugh-reading to them, and get comfy because you won’t want to put this one down until the very end!   5 Stars!! 

From a Male Perspective 

Dauntless Indies Interview with Ryan

DI:  Is this a book that guys can read and enjoy?

RR:  Yeah, I think so, it is definitely written from a woman's point of view, and I would say that it's not for every guy, but what caught me was the almost slapstick humor in the beginning of the book. 

DI: Slapstick humor? Do you mean like the Three Stooges?

RR:  Well, nothing is that sublime! "Slowly I turned....Niagara Falls"  Anyway, my wife likes to read books while in the tub, and as I had to repeatedly check on her because frankly, it sounded like she had choked on a bar of soap from laughing so hard. It intrigued me as we have the similar sense of humor, and since Fabio and his abs weren't on the cover, there was a good chance I might like it. Within a couple of pages I was guffawing out loud myself.

DI:  What in particular did you find so comedic about the book?

RR:  There was just something about a woman trying to become infamous and screwing it up so badly at every turn, I could picture my wife in almost every situation. The lead character, Magnolia, was just so hapless, not only did she fail, but she failed spectacularly! With equal parts humiliation, physical pain as well as destruction of private property. 

DI: So is the book all comedy or is there more to the story?

RR:  No and yes.  The book at it's core, is sort of a "My Fair Lady" story, only Henry Higgins is a hooker named Honey, and Eliza is a wall flower blossoming into vixen, also like my wife...MEOW.   I am enough of a renaissance man, WOW,  there is that choking sound from the tub again ...that I like to see love stories wrapped up in a cute little bow by the time they are done, you know like the Quiet Man, or African Queen, or even The Raiders of the Lost Ark, not that Crystal Skull crap though and this book did that. 

DI: From your perspective, is there anything the author could have or should have done differently?

RR: If I am being honest, I do have one criticism, I really felt like there should have been a little bit more of everything. I feel like the first part of the book which is resplendent with Magnolia's attempts at infamy gone comically wrong could have easily been stretched in to an entire volume and without a doubt continued the story into further books. 
You grow to have so much empathy with Magnolia's character so quickly that you want more of her wacky antics. It's like we ran off to Vegas and got married after knowing her for two weeks, when a six month courtship would have been just that much more hilarious, after all, what would my mom say?   I also enjoyed the support characters and feel that they could have been exploited further. But all in all, awesome book!  Hey Rhonda, what about a book from Jace's perspective?

DI: Anything that made you uncomfortable, subject wise?

RR:  {visibly wincing} Two words....Penile fracture....enough said.

DI: We use star ratings in our book reviews, what would you give this book star wise, using the 0-5 with 5 best rating?

RR: I would give this one a solid 4.5, and only because it was lacking fart humor. But in all seriousness, I really did enjoy this book very much. While I may not necessarily have been part of the intended readership, reading it was still worth the Call Of Duty playing time I missed out on. Thanks Rhonda Dennis and keep it up!

Our Dream Cast

Shawn and Michele racked their brains and debated who would be best suited for each character.  Below is the consensus that they finally agreed upon.

John Goodman as Big Daddy Murray Berrybush

Bernadette Peters as Sunny Berrybush

Michelle Trachtenberg as Magnolia Picasso Berrybush

Michelle Pfeiffer as Honey LaReaux

Trevor Donovan as Jace Taylor

Antonio Cupo as Niccolo "Nick the Dick" Ferrera


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