1. The Sweet Smell of Magnolias and Memories
    The Sweet Smell of Magnolias and Memories
    Celeste Fletcher McHale
    Thomas Nelson / 2017 / Trade Paperback
    $9.49 Retail: $15.99 Save 41% ($6.50)
    3.5 Stars Out Of 5 18 Reviews
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  1. Kansas City
    Gender: female
    4 Stars Out Of 5
    True Love?
    June 21, 2018
    tickmenot
    Kansas City
    Gender: female
    Quality: 4
    Value: 4
    Meets Expectations: 4
    With rising water all around her, Jacey makes it to a rooftop and is helped on by others also caught in the flood. Her roof-mates consist of Colin, a young man close to her age, along with the Jackson familymom Lilian, and her three children. Over the next few days Jacey builds strong ties with all of them. Colin and she connect so strongly that Jacey truly believes he is the one!

    At long last rescue comes, however, Colins contact information is somehow lost. After a year of searching without results, Jacey doesnt think she will see Colin again. But suddenly, the couple is reunited in a very surprising way. Even more shocking is Collins occupation. Despite the deep connection the two shared during the flood, things are not as easy now.

    At the same time, Jacey is distressed to discover that Lilian and her youngest son died during the rescue. Desperate to find the other two children, Jacey is heart-broken to find the situation they are now in.

    Are Jacey and Colin ever going to have a relationship, or was their interest in each other artificially heightened because of the danger they were in? Will Jacey be able to make sure the Jackson children have the happily ever after life she would love for them to have? Has Colin been stringing Jacey along while he has another girl on the side?

    This tale will take your emotions on a ride, sometimes you will laugh and other times you might cry. This 4-star book is told from a Christian viewpoint and recommend it to lovers of stories set in the south or works of fiction.

    Thomas Nelson Publishers has provided bookreadingtic with a complimentary copy of The Sweet Smell of Magnolias and Memories, for the purpose of review. I have not been compensated in any other manner. All opinions expressed are my own, and I was not required, or influenced, to give anything but an honest appraisal. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255.
  2. Age: 25-34
    Gender: female
    3 Stars Out Of 5
    Fun, Southern-infused Tale
    May 20, 2018
    Beth
    Age: 25-34
    Gender: female
    Quality: 4
    Value: 4
    Meets Expectations: 4
    More like a 3.5! There were several things I enjoyed about McHale's second novel - the depiction of friendship between Jacey and Georgia - full of humor and realism - and the excellent Southern feel of the story, especially when it comes to how the characters speak and the sayings they use. Jacey's traumatic experience also rings true, and I love how tough subjects are tackled within the story. If anything, I wanted more. There were times that I felt cheated out of a really good scene - the plot just skipped things that I was itching to read.It's hard to explain in detail without spoilers, but there were a few things that happened to Jacey, and the reader doesn't get to experience them, they are just already done when we get to her next scene. I was hoping for the experience, so when I didn't get it, I was a bit disappointed. I also don't care for mis-communication as a main hurtle in the romantic relationship, but that's just a personal preference of mine. It does provide the catalyst for both Colin and Jacey to get their acts together as individuals, and that I did appreciate.

    While the story has romance thread, the focus is primarily on friendship and the restoration of family - both blood relatives and those brought together by tragic circumstances. The healing shown throughout both of these aspects is quite moving and definitely my favorite part of the story.

    I do recommend this story; it came very close to being 4 stars for me, and I'm sure the things that bothered me won't bother many readers. What is there is great, but in the end, I just wanted more of it. Pick this up if you're in the mood for a quick, Southern-infused story about friendship and family.

    I received a complimentary copy of this novel, which I chose to review. This is my honest opinion.
  3. 3 Stars Out Of 5
    Enjoyable Contemporary Southern Fiction
    November 15, 2017
    Yvette K.
    Quality: 5
    Value: 4
    Meets Expectations: 4
    Having loved the author's debut novel last year, I was prepared. I waited until I was emotionally ready and had stocked up on tissue, poised to become a blubbering mess... It didn't happen, but I still enjoyed the pants off this book.

    The prologue is a bit of a red herring, setting the reader up for an emotional and compelling story. Then the first chapter drops you into a scene with a lighter, shallower feel. A bit jarring at first, but it is easy to adapt and just let the story unfold.

    Now, it isn't without flaws. Jacey Lang doesn't really come off as a credible magazine writer, but that bit of background isn't intrinsic to most of the story. While I found her somewhat relatable, and the arc of her memory loss/mental block interesting, the repeated desire to punch someone was a bit off-putting. Really, this story is full of some messed up people, including the man she fell for while stranded on a rooftop during a flood. Colin Jennings may have become ordained in the time between Jacey's rescue and finally finding each other again at her roommate Willow's wedding, but he has some serious baggage and a bit of growing up to do. All of which added layers to the story of this couple finding, losing, finding, losing, and finding each other again.

    Jacey's sporadic memories of the flood, and the magnolia branch of the title, are interspersed throughout the novel. The lost being found is a recurring theme in this book, as Jacey finally faces up to the losses that her mind has blocked and goes looking for the other survivors from that rooftop. This is a part of the story where coincidences come in to play, leading Colin and Jacey to separately come to terms with parts of their pasts.

    One of the things that the author does particularly well is close female friendships. Friendships that seem so real and relatable. While Willow doesn't figure into the story much, the third roommate Georgia does. Georgia is smart and smart-mouthed, supportive, funny, and woe to the man who does her friend wrong.

    If you are looking for a touching, sweet romance with enough Southern sass to keep it from being a tear-jerker, then this is a good choice. A quick read that might make you wish it wasn't a stand-alone novel.

    This review refers to a finished copy I voluntarily received from Thomas Nelson and Zondervan's Fiction Guild. All opinions expressed are my own.
  4. Arden, NC
    Age: 25-34
    Gender: female
    3 Stars Out Of 5
    Plot was a little Swiss-cheesy
    September 24, 2017
    ADFehl
    Arden, NC
    Age: 25-34
    Gender: female
    Quality: 3
    Value: 3
    Meets Expectations: 3
    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.

    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.
  5. Owhango, New Zealand
    Age: 25-34
    Gender: female
    4 Stars Out Of 5
    Unique, compelling and above all fun.
    August 20, 2017
    Angela Bycroft
    Owhango, New Zealand
    Age: 25-34
    Gender: female
    Quality: 4
    Value: 4
    Meets Expectations: 4
    The Sweet Smell of Magnolias was a fantastic contemporary read which transported the reader into the rich vibrant world of Louisiana and particularly the devastating floods of 2016. Jacey finds herself caught literally clinging to a roof top next to a strange man she doesnt know but over the course of the long flooded hours they develop a strong unbreakable bond - until in the final minutes of rescue - Jacey hits her head and all memory of their ordeal initially disappears along with her handsome stranger.

    It was quite the original and compelling opening and one that kept a readers interest piqued. Fast forward to the present - and Jacey is a bridesmaid at her friends wedding, now recovered from her injuries - and who should be the officiating minister at said wedding? Colin - her rooftop confidant and flood companions.

    What follows is Jacey and Colin trying to sort through the returning memories and confusion which surrounds Jaceys memories and rekindling what might have been an amazing start to a relationship.

    This is no mere run of the mill romance novel - its setting and characters are so vivid and real they live beyond the page and for all the serious setting, there are fantastic touches of humour and literal laugh out loud dialogue.

    I would recommend this book to anyone weary of the stock standard romance genre which can become predictable and stale. Unique, compelling and surprisingly fun!!!

    I received a copy of this book from the publisher via The Fiction Guild, and was not required to post a positive review. The opinions expressed are my own.
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