Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Independent book review: Red Mojo Mama, by Kathy Lynn Hall

This is a strange review for me. First, I have to admit that I probably do not fit into the author's target audience. I did not really enjoy reading Red Mojo Mama while I was engrossed in the middle of it, but after I finished it, the more I thought about it, the more I came to like it.

The story is about a woman in her, from what I can tell, late 30s who loses her husband and a beloved maiden aunt at about the same time. Her aunt leaves her a trailer park in California, in the midst of the 1848 gold-rush territory. Her husband doesn't really leave her - sure, she has all his stuff in boxes, but his ghost shows up right at the beginning of the novel and makes appearances at key moments.

Don't worry, this is not neo-occult like Stephanie Myer does it. You can choose to interpret the ghost scenes as completely internal to the main character, or a way her mind chooses to deal with grief and the way she has internalized much of her late husband's personality.

Red moves to Nuggetville to take over the trailer park. She begins a completely new life, with new neighbours and a new job as a reporter for the local newspaper.

Kathy Lynn Hall has a gift for bringing characters to life. I could actually hear some of their voices as I read the dialogue (yes, my medications are up to date!), and I swear I've seen some of the residents of the trailer park before. Hall knows how to capture real people's dialogue without seeming condescending.

The main character, Red, is appealing on many levels. Another gift Hall shows is an ability to handle a steamy sex scene. (Excuse me while I have a drink of water.)

What didn't I like? Well, Red is a little too strong, sometimes. Much of it is bravado, which is completely believable. But things fall into place for her a little too well. While I like mysteries that answer all the questions, I generally don't like stories that tie up too neatly at the end. Life, as I have found it, is messy.

Not that Hall's characters' lives are neat and ordered - far from it! And now that I think about it, Hall did expound on her main character's inner turmoil. I just think that she should have thought more about it. Without giving too much away for you readers, I guess I would have preferred that Red make a different decision at the end.

But that's saying too much. I cannot fault Hall for not writing the story the way I would have. And she didn't write it for me, either. This book is written for a female audience. Men, there's a lot for us to take from this, some real insight into that most baffling of questions, "how do women think?" And yes, that shower scene.

Congrats, Kathy Lynn Hall, you've changed my mind. No, I am not stubborn. Am not!

I recommend this e-book as a good read. If you like romances about strong women, mysteries with a lot of character depth, or if you're an action fan who wants to get out of that rut, check this one out.

And if you're an independent writer, Hall's success is a good model to follow. Don't miss her latest, Blog and Tweet, full of good advice on using social media to promote your books.

Red Mojo Mama is available on Amazon
Check out the author's page on Goodreads


  1. Thank you for this thoughtful review, Scott. It sounds like the main issue here for you was that this is just a half-step above chick-lit where strong women with bravado reign supreme. I appreciate your honesty and the time you gave to reflection.

  2. I missed the link to Amazon and Goodreads. You are very thorough and kind. Thanks again.

  3. I'm not disparaging chick-lit, and this story is well above most genre writing. I've read some truly awful stuff.

    It just took my head a little while to get into your space, that's all. But when I think of some of the strong women I've met, the situations and dialogue ring true.