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review 2017-09-24 12:43
The Sweet Smell of Magnolias & Memories by Celeste Fletcher McHale
The Sweet Smell of Magnolias and Memories - Celeste Fletcher McHale

Jacey and Colin shared the three most intense days of their lives together, waiting for help as Mississippi floodwaters surrounded them. Jacey knew Colin was the love of her life—until her rescue boat went under water, along with Colin’s last name and pieces of Jacey’s memory.

 

The last thing she remembered was being submerged in water. Again.

 

As Jacey walks down the aisle as the maid of honor in her friend’s wedding a year later, the last person she expects to see is Colin. The biggest surprise, though, is that the man of her dreams is not wearing jeans and flip-flops as he did when he held her through those long nights of the flood. He’s the preacher.

 

As Jacey’s memories come flooding back, it’s almost more than she can take. The fate of the young family trapped with them haunts her. The unwavering honesty—and support—of her best friend Georgia forces her to take a fresh look at herself. She’s spent her life afraid of love. But this flood is opening Jacey’s heart in the most unexpected ways.

Amazon.com

 

 

 

Jacey is a writer for a regional Southern life magazine, on location for a story in Mississippi. Colin is a traveling minister specializing in disaster relief (specifically, building houses for the needy). As life would have it, Colin finds himself caught in one such disaster when the Mississippi town he's currently located in -- the same as our Miss Jacey -- is hit with a storm that brings devastating flooding. Both caught in the storm, Jacey and Colin meet when Colin pulls her onto the roof he and a local family are clinging to while awaiting rescue. 

 

Three days pass while the sodden group awaits rescue of any kind. The reader is told that something magical happened between Colin and Jacey, but honestly we're not given many details about what went down that was so world-rocking between them other than some hints that they talked about the need for survival and then there was some time for cuddles and make-out sessions. But what led to those stolen kisses? Your guess is as good as mine 'cause I kept waiting for those deets that never seemed to come. A couple swears they fell in love in 3 days -- is that not a story the reader deserves to know in ally its swoon-worthy details?!

 

Anyway, when help finally does arrive, Colin makes sure Jacey and Lillian, the mother with the 4 boys that shared the roof with them, all make it into the boat, his plan being that the boat now looks crowded so he'd just wait for the next boat to come around. But he doesn't let Jacey go without writing down all his contact info on a piece of paper and shoving it in her pocket. Just moments after being saved, Jacey's rescue boat collides with another, throwing all the passengers back into the water. Jacey suffers injuries that leave her hospitalized for a time with months of physical rehab after. She also finds that the trauma has left her with not only PTSD but also temporary amnesia regarding events of that harrowing day.

 

Fast forward a year later and we meet the chick-lit standards McHale includes in the plot: the group of besties who met in college and have sailed through thick & thin together since. Best girl Willow is now getting married while other best girl Georgia is struggling with having recently lost the love of her life to his lapse in fidelity. Jacey is at Willow's side as maid of honor and gets the shock of her life to find that none other than Colin is officiating! Now back in each other's lives, the two have to discover if what felt real truly was or if it was just a case of fear-of-death-fueled emotions.

 

This one proved to be yet another case of a novel where the secondary characters entertained me far more than our leads. Maybe it was because I as the reader wasn't made privy to any of the heart-melting conversations that must have went down between Colin & Jacey... must have been something pretty heady to feel love after 3 days ... but I don't know the details of their romance, if it can be called that, so for much of the book I wasn't that invested in their story. In fact, their back and forth cold-shoulder drama and hurt feelings based on assumptions got tiring.

 

It's generally presented as a given in romances that our female lead be irresistible to those around her but I wasn't entirely sold on Jacey in this sense. It was undeniably kind and moving what she did for Lillian's boys later on in the book but the way she was with Colin at times struck me as gratingly childish. Especially a moment near the close of the book, where Colin just wants to put all the miscommunication behind them -- he approaches her humbled, ready to explain his side of things -- and can I just say, about the worst thing he did IMO is send an insensitive text which masked some of his unspoken insecurities, a text he shortly after profusely tried to apologize for --  and she bald-face lies to him (more than once in one convo!) and then boots him out her door! Girl, what?! And then she has the gall to call Georgia and whine that she wishes Colin would just explain things if he really care. He tried, you goob! Then the inevitable make-up scene -- she admits to lying but gets away with giggling and telling him, "It's your fault though!" which he seems to gladly accept? Colin, in response, admits to being tempted to take her right there on his buddy's ottoman.. okay, I'm done with these two and I see them as the type that ends up divorced in 5 years or less lol 

 

But yes, those secondary characters came in to save my interest! Colin's bartender friend Julie was an admirable tough-as-nails type with a quick wit, and my heart immediately warmed to the elderly Mrs. Ernestine. Shame she didn't have more book time.

 

They heard screaming and both turned their heads to see Georgia running up the back steps, chickens nipping at her heels. 

 

"These freakin' chickens are trying to kill me!" she said, a short but piercing scream escaping her lips every few seconds.

 

Mrs. Ernestine looked at Jacey. "Does she belong to you?"

 

"Yes, ma'am." Jacey laughed.

 

"God help you."

 

 

 

The real show-stealer though -- Miss Georgia. Girl had SASS for days and I loved every bit of it! 

 

Jacey :(after a date with Colin): He was quite the gentleman. 

Georgia: Oh, how boring. 

 

Colin: Gotta be some kind of record, eight seconds in the door and the interrogation begins.

Georgia: I must be slipping. 

 

Georgia was the definition of the perfect best friend. Day or night, if Jacey called and said she needed her, Georgia was there in minutes. If someone hurt Jacey, she was quick to say, "Oh no, I'm not having that." But she also wasn't shy to set Jacey right when her behavior was sometimes slightly out of line. Also, in a nod to McHale's previous novel, The Secret To Hummingbird Cake, Georgia has a story about binging on hummingbird cake while working through a heavy bout of depression, "And I hate hummingbird cake!" {Sidenote: In the author acknowledgements it is revealed that Georgia and Jacey are named after two close friends of McHale.}

 

There are some good thought-provoking themes that stand out in this novel. For one, the reader is introduced to Colin's moneyed background. His story of stepping away from the family fortune to pursue a life of service and the challenges that brought him, in regards to familial relationships, will give the reader pause, having one consider that yes, maybe now that grass over there doesn't seem so green! Colin, through his family struggles, is also given a rough crash-course in the lesson of forgiveness. He carries a lot of deep-seated anger and resentment towards his parents, but over time discovers that perceived sins or mistakes often have more complicated backstories to them that must be considered. As one line in this novel points out, "Forgive people even if they're not sorry." Again, something that readers will likely find applicable in difficult areas of their own lives. 

 

Aside from the dud of a romance (at least for me) between Jacey & Colin, another area of the story that left me somewhat troubled was how the topic of race was handled. It was disappointing to see McHale lean on racial stereotypes to craft the personalities of so many of the African-American characters in this book. Lillian, the mother of the four boys, was a single mother, the father of her children serving a life sentence in prison, Lillian herself described as having little education, living what seemed (by the few descriptions given) to be a low-income neighborhood. The black servant working for Colin's rich white parents, even though this story takes place in present day... Sometimes it just struck me as there being this whispered tone of "well, that's just the way things are around here." I feel as if an opportunity was missed to shed life on these impoverished communities that do indeed exist but also commonly have a rich sense of community behind them. Had that been worked in a bit better, I think the novel would have had some more depth to it. Instead, the plot's focus, in regards to the African-American characters, seemed to be on how the misfortunes of these characters ended up (in a roundabout way) bettering the lives of already-privileged white characters. That undertone made me a bit sad, if I'm being honest. But again, I can appreciate what Jacey ended up doing for those boys, and the willingness to serve and love that that act demonstrated. 

 

While the plot itself wasn't a slam dunk for me personally, I applaud author Celeste Fletcher McHale for announcing her intent to donate a portion of the proceeds for this book to the victims of Louisiana's devastating floods of 2016. She also provides contact info for relief organizations working in the area should you yourself wish to contribute to relief / rebuilding efforts there. 

 

FTC Disclaimer: TNZ Fiction Guild kindly provided me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. The opinions above are entirely my own. 

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review 2017-09-05 19:11
Mrs. Fletcher by Tom Perrotta
Mrs. Fletcher - Tom Perrotta

Hmm, what is there to say about this one? I read it, all of it, and I wasn’t tempted to DNF it even though I found it a wee bit plotless and a little too over-stuffed with issues. I can’t say that I’ll remember much about it in a few days so I better spit this out now.

 

Eve is a divorcee who, when the book begins, is sending her only son off to college. She’s not dealing well with this turn of events even though her son is a selfish son-of-a-B (if you ask me). She loves him all the same. They say love is blind and they are not kidding. She overhears him say something dreadful to his booty call before he leaves but she doesn’t address it, not wanting to stir the hornets’ nest and all. Personally, were it me, I’d be glad to have his rude, lazy butt out of the house! But she’s sad and she misses her boy. She even blames many of his shortcomings on herself because of the divorce and all.

 

I can’t remember the kids name but he has his own point of view, along with Eve and it’s almost always obnoxious. I didn’t like him and though he had a few brief moments of almost decency, I didn’t want to spend any time in his head. He also didn’t do a lot of growing up over the course of the novel but I suppose that may have been the point?

 

Now about Eve. She starts to fill her time watching MILF porn after she receives a text saying she’s a MILF. Apparently, she was living under a rock and had to look up the term on the internets and instead of immediately seeing the definition she finds MILF porn instead and she is hooked. In between porn viewings, she signs up for a class, makes some new friends and has a wee little moment of sexual experimentation. I will not lie, those bits were interesting BUT inserted into this story were issues heaped upon issues about struggles with aging, transgender, bisexuality, younger lovers, autism, wannabe frat-life and so many more that I felt like I was reading a lesson in what it feels like to be all these types of people and the lack of focus started to hurt my head. Sadly, none of it was particularly amusing but yet I kept reading . . .

 

I’ll give it a three because I guess it could’ve contained even more issues. There were no foot fetishes, cannibalism or bestiality struggles at least.

 

Thanks, Netgalley, for sharing this with me.

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review 2017-08-23 14:56
The Convenient Felstone Marriage - Jenni... The Convenient Felstone Marriage - Jenni Fletcher

Ianthe Holt's career as a governess came to an embarrassing, grinding halt when the son of the family convinced her to elope with him, only to change his mind when his family caught up with them en route. Now she's facing her brother trying to marry her to an older family friend who has always alarmed her, Charles Lester. He was also fascinated by her mother and now it appears he has transferred this fascination to her.  He has convinced her brother to go along with this.

 

Robert Felstone needs a wife to help him with his business plans but the last woman he asked turned him down. Ianthe intrigues him and he comes to realise that she seems to be stirring feelings in him.  

 

I liked it, fun and interesting and the characters were well drawn.

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review 2017-08-20 17:41
A terrible disappointment!
Mrs. Fletcher - Tom Perrotta

Mrs. Fletcher, Tom Perrotta, author; Carrie Coon, Finn Wittrock, Alexandra Allwine, JD Jackson, Nicky Maindiratta, Jen Richards, Sarah Steele, Aaron Tveit, narrators

The book was interesting when it dealt with issues of autism, senior care, loneliness, PTSD, sexual identity and sexual abuse, but it didn’t develop these subjects, instead it just touched upon them as a way to introduce and dwell on irresponsible behavior, sexual deviance and lust. It presented a cast of miserable characters who never seemed to really suffer any consequences for their poor behavior. In fact, the only ones who paid for their errors in judgment were their victims, those upon whom they inflicted their selfishness. Although the sexual descriptions were not very graphic, they seemed to occupy most of the book. The language used by the author was crude. Both male and female characters seemed to think with a brain that was located somewhere between their waists and their thighs and nowhere near their heads. They were immature and irresponsible. They all served their own needs first and foremost barely thinking of the consequences of their foolishness.

Eve Fletcher runs a senior citizen’s center. She is divorced and is an unhappy parent who has just dropped off her only child, Brendan, at college. Her advice to him boils down to, “have fun”. He is immature and spoiled and proceeds to do just that, drinking and smoking marijuana, until his grades suffer. He becomes involved with a young woman named Amber. Amber has a brother who is autistic. Brandon’s half brother is also autistic. They both attend a group, the Autism Awareness network. Amber is a free spirit. She is sexually active but berates herself for always going after the wrong kind of love object. She does not really recognize the error of her own ways and blames others when things do not go according to Hoyle. During a moment of sexual abandon, Brandon speaks very crudely to her, and she dumps him.

Eve was a contradiction in terms. She told her son to treat women respectfully, but she didn’t expect to behave responsibly herself. Move over Mrs. Robinson. You have met your match with Eve. The empty nest looms wide before her. She enrolls in a community college and signs up for a class on gender in society and attempts to try to adjust to her new life of loneliness on the one hand, and freedom on the other. She too wants to “have fun”. She becomes addicted to porn sites on the internet and engages in sexual experimentation.

Margo is the adjunct professor who is teaching Eve’s class. She is lonely. They become friends. She was once a man. Some students are confused about the idea of a transgender teacher. They have never known anyone like that before. There is a young man, Dumell in the class. He had served in Iraq and has PTSD. He and Margo become involved in a relationship.

Amanda is a young woman who works for Eve as an event manager. She is also lonely. There are a lot of lonely people in this book. Amanda uses the internet to arrange one night stands for sex. Eve and Amanda become friends, and Eve discovers that she has feelings for women and wouldn’t mind some sort of experimental relationship. Amanda rebuffs her advances.

Julian is a former high school classmate of Brendan’s. Brendan had once bullied him and the experience of being locked in an outhouse, however briefly, left him with PTSD. Eve is attracted to Julian, although he is a teenager. He seems attracted to her. He is also attracted to Amanda and Amanda is attracted to him. Eventually, Amanda, Eve and Julian engage in a ménage a trios.

Eventually, Eve became involved with a man who also liked porn. He had a daughter who didn’t believe in gender. She was attracted to the person, not the sexual identity. Her boyfriend was an asexual. He had no sexual desires at all. Amber contacts Brendan to say she was at much at fault as he was when they were at school. She recognized her own complicity in what had happened between them.

Brendan had left college and was learning a trade, plumbing, the trade of his mother’s new husband, but was thinking of returning to school. The book was turning into a fairy tale with all of the issues neatly resolved. I found the conclusion to be contrived as everyone’s life somehow turned out better than they expected. It didn’t feel authentic. I finished it out of respect for an author I admired. I would only recommend it to those interested in reading about people who are unhappy, dysfunctional and even morally repugnant at times

Summing it up, there was a transgender person, a possible lesbian, an asexual, and probably a homosexual and bisexual somewhere in the mix. There were a variety of emotional problems represented. There did not seem to be a shortage of characters with problems, just a shortage of those who had no sexual and emotional issues. In short, in this book, there was never an adult in the room.

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review 2017-08-16 00:26
Finding Claire Fletcher - Lisa Regan

I really liked this story a lot. A story of a girl who was kidnapped when she was 15 years old. It is now 10 years later and Claire Fletcher shows up in a bar, having drinks with a detective and proceeding to follow him home for the night. She leaves him early the next morning with only a note with her address and a second dirty wine glass as proof that she was there.

This begins Connor Parks journey on a decades old cold case. Because, when he goes to the address listed on the note, he discovers that the woman he is looking for disappeared 10 years ago.

The story is filled with Lynn (Claire) reliving her decade with her abductor. The horrors, the loathing and the detestation of the monstrosity that was her abductor. It's also filled with suspense, action and a jaw dropping reality of the monster.

I loved that this book was written differently than most abduction books I have read. With the historical aspect of the story, your not really seeing it happen, but just hearing about it.

An excellent read that I sped through, especially towards the end, and could not put down.

Huge thanks to Thomas & Mercer and Net Galley for providing me with a free e-galley in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.

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