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  • Posted October 17, 2014

    Six hours. Six hours is how long it took me to devour this book.

    Six hours. Six hours is how long it took me to devour this book. I started it at midnight (poor decision on my part) and stayed up until 6 am to finish it because let me tell you, this book is AMAZING! Oh man, I could just gush and gush about this this book but I will actually try to review it, as hard as it might be. I have been in a funk of just reading okay books (besides Belzhar) and Magnolia successfully got me out of my funk!

    There was so much that was right in this book that it is impressive. The premise is brilliant yet simple; Jemma and Ryder’s families have been friends for decades (going back to The Civil War) but they have never had a boy/girl match that could finally unite their families in marriage until Jemma and Ryder. It is essentially the exact opposite of Romeo and Juliet and it is AMAZING! I thought that the allusions to Shakespeare were WONDERFUL and the scenes/acts just fit perfectly into the story. Jemma and Ryder have both been told over and over again that they are perfect for one another which have caused a very distinct wall to form between them; neither of them wants to give into their families' insane tactics and planned out futures.

    This is a romance book at its core but like great YA romances, it is grounded in real life with real life situations; these characters are both trying to figure out what they want from their futures which makes it easy to relate to both of these characters (for me, at least). I loved seeing how their passions were sprinkled throughout the book because then choices of majors/schools make complete sense to the reader. Both Jemma and Ryder choose not to take the road that is carved out for them and it's so cool to see how alike they really are even though they've been strained since 8th grade. We get to see these characters acting immature and mature, the good and the bad, but they are constantly growing and learning which is great to read about. Jemma and Ryder are distinctly different people with different life goals and I loved seeing how these two came to understand one another.

    Kristi wrote two real characters that both had flaws and passions which made for two highly believable characters; they fought and were stubborn but they also worked through these differences and got to see the other person's point of view. It was a really well-crafted story and the characters were amazingly written. 

    This ship. This ship is the most wonderful thing. The buildup is amazing and I loved seeing how Jemma’s thoughts changed towards Ryder during the book. It was amazing and beautiful and wonderful. I've already gone back a few times just to read the highlights because they make me SO HAPPY!

    Just go read it, it's amazing.

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  • Posted September 22, 2014

    Magnolia is simply amazing. Nearly everything about this book wa

    Magnolia is simply amazing. Nearly everything about this book was perfection. The setting? Absolutely on point. The characters? Couldn't have been better. The plot? Yes, please! Seriously, I have so much love for this book! It's perfectly southern. The setting, the characters, the dialogue; it all reeks of slow accents, insults veiled with the perfectly placed "bless her heart", and everything else I love about the south. This book totally took me by surprise and swept me off of my feet.

    The way that Cook weaves in a backwards Romeo and Juliet scenario had me from the start. You just knew that Jemma and Ryder were going to be together by the end even though you had no idea how. All of the ways that I pictured it happening never came, but Cook delivered anything better than I could have imagined. The storm was perfect! The relationship between Jemma and Ryder was truly amazing. There's no insta-love here. Rejoice. I can't say much because I don't want to give away anything. Magnolia is a book (and romance!) that's best experienced firsthand.

    Before picking up this title for review, I had never heard of Kristi Cook before. Now I consider myself as one of her biggest fans. I'm practically tripping over my own feet to find something else by her. Her ability to not only capture the essence of the south without throwing in cliches and stereotypes, but to capture the teenage spirit and the appeal of love and hate has made me a fan for life. Do you love YA? Do you love believable romances? Do you love characters that seem to become real people? Then you simply have to read Magnolia!

    **I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review with no compensation.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 9, 2014

    I loved it

    I love how it overall incorperates a little bit of a Romeo and Juliet twist while still keeping to an origional story! One like I've never read before!

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  • Posted August 17, 2014

    Becca: Books set in the South capture my heart, maybe it¿s becau

    Becca: Books set in the South capture my heart, maybe it’s because of my childhood spent there or maybe it’s because of the relaxing vibe and comforting feel. The quote above perfectly describes the setting and feeling of this book for me. Even when the storm takes place, I was just in wonderment of the the beauty of Magnolia Branch Mississippi. This book was amazing from start to finish! Lisa and I kept going back and forth asking each other if we wanted to read more because neither of us wanted to stop!

    Lisa: This book was exactly what I needed. The perfectly sweet, fun contemporary read that I love the most. Becca and I had trouble putting it down and continuously agreed to read more each day, getting through the entire book in only a few sittings. My very favorite type of romance is a slow-burn, enemies-turn-lovers type of romance, and that’s exactly what we got here.

    Jemma and Ryder have grown up together in the small town of Magnolia Branch, Mississippi, where everyone knows everyone… and everything. Their BFF mothers have been pushing them to be together for their entire upbringing, and they’ve been battling this push with full-on disgust. Jemma has a bad memory of Ryder from their middle school days that she just can’t seem to let go of. Ryder feels the hatred radiating toward him from Jemma, so he keeps his distance at all costs. But as they get thrown into an uncomfortable position, riding out a tornado together, they learn how to make the most of the situation and learn to deal with each other, for better or worse.

    Becca: Lisa is right, this was a perfect slow burn romance. My heart broke for Jemma after what went down between her and Ryder in middle school. I understood where she was coming from, but Ryder was also an immature pre-adolescent boy… who unbelievably are even more stupid then teenage boys in my opinion LOL :)

    The entire book had a reverse Romeo and Juliet feel which ended up being really adorable. Instead of chapters there were Acts and Scenes. Jemma even has a Juliette balcony attached to her room :)

    Kristi Cook is absolutely amazing! I think my favorite thing about her writing is her descriptions. From fun things like Jemma’s dress, to beauty like the Mississippi country and to scary things like the Hurricane and tornadoes. Her descriptions pulled me in and made me feel like I was there!

    Lisa: I loved so much about this story, I just can’t stress it all enough. I loved that the characters’ conversations were very fit to their age group, and they didn’t sound like they were in their 30′s. (which is something I’ve been seeing a lot of lately.) I loved both Jemma and Ryder. And Ryder and Jemma had their fair share of mistakes and bad decisions, they had great hearts and they meant well. Jemma would explode over the littlest things, but that just made her seem more real to me. And Ryder’s attempt at being “cool” with his friends was a mistake that I think is very common among boys of that age. Such an incredible story that I loved from beginning to end.

    I totally agree, Kristi Cook is definitely an author to watch out for. This is my first K. Cook book, but after loving this so much I’ve decided I should probably try Haven too. Though it’s not my usual genre, when you find an author you love, at least in my opinion, you grab on and hold and tight.

    Becca: These characters were just perfect and like Lisa said they were true teenagers. The way they acted, the things they said and their egotistical attitudes… like I said perfect!

    I liked Jemma and Ryder so much! I feel that because this story was told from Jemma’s POV we learn more about her and let me tell you she totally rocked!! She was so talented in so many ways, a girl that could sew a vintage dress, handle a video camera like a pro, shoot a gun better than any man she knew and then dust off her pom-poms and cheer at the homecoming game! I just loved her sarcasm and kick a$$ attitude! Ryder was this sensitive football playing hottie with a true dose of southern chivalry. I just adored them both :)

    I am with Lisa on reading some more Kristi Cook books, she completely surprised me with her talent and style. We will definitely be reading more of her books in the future!

    Overall we had to give this book 5 stars! We just absolutely loved everything about it! The story, the setting, the characters and the writing were all 5 stars and… PERFECT! (I know I sound a little redundant but its true!!)

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  • Posted August 11, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    If you¿re looking for a young adult contemporary book to get los

    If you’re looking for a young adult contemporary book to get lost in this summer–even if only for a few hours–Magnolia might be just what you’re looking for. I’ve been struggling a bit with young adult reads as of late, but Magnolia definitely brought me out of my funk. I got sucked into the story right from the first page and read it in one sitting. I’m not sure I even took a short break to grab a snack or anything. I was that in tune with the characters and the story. 

    I enjoyed the reverse “star-crossed lovers” theme to this book. It made it stand out from the pack for me. So often you read of the characters who are in love, but can’t/shouldn’t be together because of their families, their background or… whatever. The opposite is true in this book. Jemma and Ryder’s families have been encouraging them to be together for years! It’s time to unite the families and all the pressure is on them. Which, you know, is a lot to deal with at such a young age. So, regardless of the attraction they feel, neither of them wants to give in to their parents’ wishes… stubborn teenagers. :)

    As much as I enjoyed the story, it was really the characters that made this book for me. Jemma was likable and relatable. Ryder was adorable–even when he was being a “jerk” in the beginning. I loved the dynamic between the two of them. They were friends when they were younger and Jemma had a crush on Ryder until he crushed her at a dance in junior high. At that point they became more “frenemies” than friends. That’s where we are when the book starts. Things quickly begin to change as the story continues though. Jemma can’t help but notice Ryder… and thinks he might be noticing her, too. But it’s not until severe weather forces the two of them to come together that things really pick up between them. I’m a total sucker for friends first stories. I don’t care how predictable they might be! 

    This book had a little bit of everything. The will they/won’t they was cute and believable. Jemma and Ryder had a ton of chemistry. The romance was sweet in that first love kind of way and it just made me smile. There are some pretty tense moments during the storm, and while I can’t say I was actually on the edge of my seat, I was a little concerned about how everything would play out. The side characters–namely their families–were interesting, too. They were just so determined these two together that it was amusing at times, frustrating at others. They were a little over-the-top, but not in a bad way.

    I loved the vibe this book gave off. I felt like I should be reading it on the porch of a mansion in the south, with a glass of sweet tea in my hand. I had high hopes for Magnolia when I first saw it and I was excited to get the chance to read it in advance of its release. It was everything I wanted and more! 

    I received a copy of this book from the publisher, via Edelweiss, in exchange for an honest review.

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