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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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text 2017-09-21 05:52
Tree Therapy, Indian Summer - Facebook vignettes

 

Tree Therapy

Most days I get ahead of the morning. I’m up and busy with the mindless tasks that paradoxically fill my mind. It’s good to be engaged, interested, anticipating the challenges and rewards of the day unfolding.

 

Then there are days I awake anxious and for no particular reason. I don’t indulge these moods but despite my best efforts they prevail. I become disconcerted and irritable. Little things seem difficult, difficult things seem insurmountable.

 

On days like these I’m more keenly aware of intolerance and bigotry, of ignorance. I despair at people’s motives and am appalled by their actions. Frustration gives way to anger, gives way to cynicism, gives way to a feeling of hopelessness.

 

I’m running out of optimism. I know for a fact that everything is not going to be all right.

I would surrender, but to whom? I would retreat, but to where?

 

Nothing constructive or creative will happen until I shake this pall of despondency. I gear up and head out.

 

Even as I approached them my mood begins to lift.

 

The Maples of Kensington. Eight stately giants – so huge, so proud, so magnificently impersonal.

 

These are Bigleaf Maples (Acer macrophyllum), the largest of the Maple family perhaps 300 years old, maybe 50 metres high. Being tightly clustered they have developed a narrow crown supported by a trunk free of branches for about half its length.

 

I stand beneath them, I press my palms against their bark, I take a deep breath and listen.

 

And they speak to me.

 

High in their lofty branches the leaves rush and whisper and their sound soothes and reassures. Slowly their benign energy renews my confidence and restores my vitality. The desolation passes, and I feel unburdened, at peace and prepared.

 

 

 

 

Indian Summer

 

The summer had inhaled
And held its breath too long*

 

A strange mood ascends on me as summer slowly draws to an end.

 

The days have a listless quality, time seems suspended. There’s a feeling of deja vu – though not of an experience, rather an emotion, a dream sense, vague and inarticulate.

It’s like a lost memory – tinged with warning.

 

It’s about ending – something good, something sweet and easy. It’s about something approaching – new, different, challenging. The anticipation of change sends a ripple of foreboding, but I feel resigned, accepting.

 

One afternoon I find myself at Trout Lake, the local swimming hole.

 

When I was a kid the entire family would walk here from our home on East 4th. Sometimes I’d go with my neighbourhood buddies. It was a different world then, no structured play dates, we roamed free seeking and finding adventures. Most of these people are gone now, yet standing on the shore I can hear their happy voices, catch glimpses of them splashing into the green water.

 

This lake was witness to many rites of passage and figures prominently in my writing. The beach is small and less crowded than I remember. The raft I nearly drowned trying to swim to is not so far. Could it possibly be sixty years since I swam here?

 

Suddenly I’m enveloped in a sense of longing for a phantom life that almost was, but never will be.

 

I run across the hot sand, splash through the shallows and dive in.

 

The water is cool, slightly murky, exactly as I remember it and for brief seconds it washes the years away. I kick hard, go deeper, then roll over. Up through the depths the sun sparkles, shards of diffused light. I’m eight years old until I break the surface and look back to shore.

 

They’re gone.

 

And I’m still here.

 

 

 

*From Coming Back to Me, written by Marty Balin,
On Jefferson Airplane’s Surrealistic Pillow, 1967

 

Stay calm, be brave, watch for the signs

30

 

Amazon Author Page https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B003DS6HEU

Facebook https://www.facebook.com

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text 2017-08-19 02:04
The Reading Quest
The Underground Railroad: A Novel - Colson Whitehead
In Other Lands - Sarah Rees Brennan,Carolyn Nowak
Slaughterhouse-Five - Kurt Vonnegut
Nature Abhors a Vacuum (The Aielund Saga) - Stephen L. Nowland

I totally missed the official signup for this, but I'm going to go ahead and do it anyway.

 

The Reading Quest

 

I found it on Habitica, actually (apparently I am weak and will do anything for XP, including actual adulting), and it seemed very neat. Currently I am three and a half books in, working on the Rogue path, and quite enjoying the fact that I am working off a vague plan for my reading. We will see how long that lasts, since I am weak and easily distracted by random books, but the quest for experience points may keep me on my chosen path.

 

I'm going to need to do some major cleaning around here, since I may have gotten distracted from Booklikes for a bit.

 

Has anyone else seen this? Anyone manage to sign up in a timely manner and thus be eligible for prizes? Anyone else just going to do it anyway?

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review 2017-08-06 23:08
ARC Review: Force Of Nature (Coming About #4) by J.K. Hogan
Force of Nature (Coming About Book 4) - J.K. Hogan

This is Neal Hesse's book. While it's not my favorite in the series (that was Rory's book), I think this was still a solid novel.

I had a couple of niggles, but I would classify them as minor.

The primary location for this book is in the North Cascades mountains; the rugged terrain poses multiple opportunities for the men to get into some serious, life-threatening situations.

Neal Hesse is a harbor patrol officer. After a bad break-up with his partner of 10 years, Neal is a bit adrift, and has been sleeping his way through quite a few one-night-stands trying to deal with the pain and hurt and his broken heart. Since those didn't fix anything, he decides a vacation is just the right thing to get himself back on track, and what better vacation than roughing it in the mountains. Except Neal can barely walk a straight line without stumbling, apparently, so he definitely needs a guide.

Enter Travis McCreary, mountaineer, who goes by Rock. Because, ya know, mountains. An ex-Ranger, he's now a survivalist, taking on guided tours (which he hates doing) while waiting for his big break to come through in the form of a survivalist TV show. Oh, he's also very much in the closet, because clearly mountain men cannot possibly be gay. 

Right.

So Neal gets dropped by helicopter and the two men set out on a trip across the Cascades to the pick-up zone. Seems simple enough, right? Except, no one told Neal about massive rattle snakes lurking under tree branches, or that a lot of rain can make for treacherous terrain, and thus the two men have to use all their wits to make it to the pre-arranged pick up. 

Which may include eating a rattle snake. Foraging for food. Sharing a sleeping bag for warmth. 

As for my niggles... no way is a single rattler, no matter how fat, enough sustenance for two grown man hiking over rugged terrain all day. Their food rations were so minimal that I had serious doubts either one of them would still be walking after the 2nd day without having more than half a cereal bar, with the exertion they were both putting out. Which may explain why Rock... nah, you read this for yourself.

Also, the blurb hints at dub-con - nah, I don't think so. This didn't feel like that to me. It felt more like Rock likes it rough, and Neal likes it rough, and their conversation beforehand was sufficient for me to not consider this dub-con. Now, the reason they had that first time sex was possibly because Neal hated Rock and vice versa, and possibly a bit because Neal felt like he had to be manly-man-assertive, but still not dub-con. YMMV. 

Anyway, after that first time, the two men get it on more often than not, and ew, ew, ew, you haven't showered in three days, and you've wiped your ass with leaves and moss, and ew. Not my kind of sexy, sorry.

I gave this book 3.5 stars for the tale it tells as the two men face adverse conditions time and again, and how both of them work toward a common goal, which is making it out of the mountains alive without any major injuries. Also, how feelings start to develop. And how often I was on the edge of my seat scared for their safety, because holy shit, some of that stuff is a little bit far out of my comfort zone. 

The book kept my interest; I didn't skim anything, and I loved how the two of them bonded. I also liked that Neal grew a pair with the ex-BF, and told him to fuck off. Well done, Neal. I do hope he'd have done that too if he hadn't already fallen for Rock, because Neal deserved better than to be dumped like that.

I do believe this might be the last in this series, and as such, it was a fitting ending. We got to visit with the three couple from the first three books and see them still super happy and in love, so that was nice. 

Solid writing. I enjoyed it.


** I received a free copy of this book via Indigo Marketing and Design as part of a blogtour. A positive review was not promised in return. **

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review 2017-07-31 12:59
The Spirits of Nature (Spirits of Nature #1) by Michelle Post
The Spirits of Nature - Michelle Post
Prepare to be taken away and immersed in the lives of Rebecca and Philip (the historical leads) as this story will take you by the heart and pull you in, not letting go until you've finished the last sentence and will leave you wanting more.

This book is set on so many different levels - spiritual; historical; current to name but a few. There is a story that runs parallel as "Darcy" (the current main female) tries to find out about her lineage. 

I wasn't sure what to expect from this book but was intrigued enough to get it and I'm so very glad that I did. This is extremely well written, with a pace that will let you absorb and also leave you breathless. The characters are so incredibly lifelike, the historical ones more so for me at least. And just to warn you, have the kleenex ready! From about 85% of the book I was crying, but whether they were good tears or bad, you will just have to read the book for yourself and find out.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
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