Thursday, July 31, 2014

Blog Tour: Magnolia by Kristi Cook {Guest Post + Review + Giveaway}

Release date: August 5, 2014
Author info: Website | Twitter | Facebook
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Pages: 384
Format: Egalley
Source: Publisher provided through Edelweiss
Buy the book: Barnes & Noble | Amazon | The Book Depository
In Magnolia Branch, Mississippi, the Cafferty and Marsden families are southern royalty. Neighbors since the Civil War, the families have shared vacations, holidays, backyard barbecues, and the overwhelming desire to unite their two clans by marriage. So when a baby boy and girl were born to the families at the same time, the perfect opportunity seemed to have finally arrived.

Jemma Cafferty and Ryder Marsden have no intention of giving in to their parents’ wishes. They’re only seventeen, for goodness’ sake, not to mention that one little problem: They hate each other! Jemma can’t stand Ryder’s nauseating golden-boy persona, and Ryder would like nothing better than to pretend stubborn Jemma doesn’t exist.

But when a violent storm ravages Magnolia Branch, it unearths Jemma’s and Ryder’s true feelings for each other as the two discover that the line between love and hate may be thin enough to risk crossing over.
There was no doubt that I would read Magnolia. As I've grown older, I've come to love where I'm from, but it's an area you simply don't see much of in fiction. So, I get irrationally excited when I see a book is set here. The cute setup for the story and the location got me reading, but the endearing characters, sweet romance, and all around charming feel of the novel made me fall in love and left the goofiest grin on my face.

We've all read the Romeo & Juliet retellings, but what's so fun about this setup is that it's the opposite. Yes, the inspiration comes from the ill-fated romance, yet Jemma and Ryder fight. Like all the time. Their parents are constantly pushing them together, so intent on connecting their families. Like good rebellious teenagers, the two could not want to be together less. There's history, a defining moment in their relationship that lead it to the dire straits it's in. Yet, the two are also about to have another defining moment. When Jemma's family is out of town and Ryder is volunteered to come ride out a hurricane at the Cafferty house, their relationship takes a sharp turn... And it's wonderful!!

The tension between the two is thick, and I couldn't help but sit around, almost chanting aloud, "Kiss. Kiss. Kiss." I mean, you know that's what's going to happen eventually, right? But in reading Magnolia, there's more to the story than the synopsis can tell you. Yes, it's about enemies who overcome their dislike and fall in loooove, but Jemma and Ryder have a lot more to their story. They both have huge hopes and dreams, some they're too afraid to share with their families, knowing that what they want is not what is expected. At the same time, neither is sitting back and letting others plan their lives for them. And while I was sitting around, hoping and wishing for the romance (which I got, I promise), I got to learn all about Jemma and Ryder and come to love them for who they were. I didn't just love the book because the romance was cute (which it was) or because it was set in Mississippi (which makes me happy dance), but I loved it because I got to know these interesting, vibrant characters who I was rooting for--the road to happiness for Jemma and Ryder just happened to include romance.

Have I convinced you? I loved Magnolia. Sure, I needed it because it's set in my home state and it sounded adorable, but Jemma and Ryder's story would have appealed to me had it been set anywhere. It's the characters that make Magnolia memorable and so wonderful--everything else is just icing on the (caramel) cake.

As a born and bred Mississippian, I get more than my fair share of excited when books are set here. And when I saw that Kristi had attended college in the Magnolia State, I knew I needed to know some of the places she loved here. Mississippi is a gorgeous place that's full of history--which you get a great taste of in Magnolia--and Kristi has obligingly shared some of her must-dos, should y'all come visit! (Which you should!) I'll admit I've not done a fair number of them. :) (Images link to sources.)

Mississippi is a beautiful place—and so underrepresented in fiction! I graduated from the University of Southern Mississippi, and was lucky enough to spend four years there soaking up the state's southern charm and famed hospitality. I've compiled a list of ten "must-sees" in case you ever find yourself in the Magnolia State! 

1. Vicksburg National Military Park—I’m a sucker for Civil War battlefields, and Vicksburg doesn’t disappoint!

2. Natchez Trace—440 miles of some of the most beautiful countryside and historic homes you will ever see. I could literally spend a week touring the plantation homes in and around Natchez.

3. Elvis Presley’s Birthplace in Tupelo, MS—Love Elvis?  You’ve gotta go!

4. Tupelo Battlefield—Yet another Civil War site--see #1 above!

5. The Beauvoir Estate in Biloxi, MS—this was the last home of Confederate President Jefferson Davis and his wife, Varina. Unfortunately, much of the estate was seriously damaged during Hurricane Katrina, but I’m pretty sure they’ve restored at least some of it!

Beauvoir today
Beauvoir post-Katrina
Rachel popping in here! I live not twenty minutes from Beauvoir, and it's been completely restored since Katrina. They also have a gorgeous Presidential library and museum that reopened last year, and every year (in October, I believe) they do the Fall Muster, with battle reenactments and everything!

6. Springfield Plantation near Fayette, MS—I think technically this is on the Natchez Trace, but I wanted to single it out because this is one of my all-time favorite plantations to visit.  A must-see! Andrew Jackson married his wife Rachel here in 1791.

7. Edd’s Drive-In, Pascagoula—Far and away, the *best* chili cheeseburger I have EVER had! Totally worth a trip to Pascagoula.

8. Sugaree’s Bakery in New Albany, MS—The best caramel cake (Ryder’s favorite!) you will EVER taste.  ‘Nuff said.

I was going to put a picture of the bakery, but DROOLS. If you haven't had caramel cake, you're missing out!
9. Oxford Square in Oxford, MS—A little taste of Faulkner, plus it’s just a beautiful, historic place!

10. Rowan Oak, home of William Faulkner, in Oxford, MS—for literary buffs *and* fans of historic homes.

A thousand thanks to Kristi for letting us mine her brain! Now y'all can see we've got beauty, history, and FOOD here in Mississippi, and you have a sense of location for reading Magnolia! :)
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Follow the FFBC Magnolia Blog Tour and don't miss anything! Click on the banner to see the tour schedule.

As a child, Kristi Cook took her nose out of a book only long enough to take a ballet class (or five) each week. Not much has changed since then, except she’s added motherhood to the mix and enjoys penning her own novels as much as reading everybody else’s. A transplanted southern gal, Kristi lives in New York City with her husband and two daughters.

That’s the official version–here are some other fun facts:
~ As an undergrad, I majored in History and minored in English at the University of Southern Mississippi. While at Southern Miss, I was a member of Phi Mu sorority, and I was a Dixie Darling. And yep, Brett Favre was our quarterback at the time!
~ I studied American History in grad school at Columbia University. I *love* history, especially the Civil War era (U.S.) and Regency- and Edwardian-era British history.

~ My all-time favorite book *and* movie is GONE WITH THE WIND. My favorite literary characters are Rhett Butler, Atticus Finch, and Mr. Darcy. I kind of want to add Peeta Mellark to that list!

~Weirdly enough (or maybe not so weirdly?) I’m also a big fan of STAR TREK (the original series). I never can remember if I’m supposed to call myself a “Trekkie” or a “Trekker,” though!

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