Cover Image: The Scent of Burnt Flowers

The Scent of Burnt Flowers

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Member Reviews

I was so happy to have received both a physical copy of this one and electronic access as well. I’m really into historical/multicultural fiction and I feel this one scratched that itch for me, but boy oh boy was it sad?! I do feel that it’s best to publish works like these so readers can learn of the strife and chaos that people in different countries had to endure just be safe and happy and well in their lives. It really makes you rethink your first-world struggles before you decide to be a complainer.
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This book was fantastic! I really enjoyed it and it kept me guessing throughout, which is difficult for most books to do. I felt like I connected with the characters and really enjoyed the plot!
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I was very excited for this book.
thank you netgalley for the e-copy. 
the story is very compelling and has a lot of potential. but I so wish it was longer and the writing was not my favorite.
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A novel that integrates several moving parts in intriguing ways, I enjoyed this read more than I anticipated. I was initially lured to this premise because it covered a historical period and locations that I'd like to hear more about and did not realize until well into the book that elements of magical realism became apparent. Readers should expect this in addition to the evasion of law that the main characters go through. For me this surprise element of fantasy was a joy to find, yet, I could see it throwing others off.
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Bernadette and Melvin are on the run after an incident in Alabama. Melvin is convinced his college best friend who is now the President of Ghana will give them asylum if they can just make it there. Howe ever Melvin hasn’t spoken to him in years, but can’t let Bernadette know is fears. Constantly looking over their shoulders is becoming a major stress in their relationship, and Bernadette is starting to question whether Melvin is the person for her. On their travels they meet Kwesi a singer who Bernadette has an instant connection with. As Bernadette is drawn closer to Kwesi, she starts to feel the frays of her relationship with Melvin even more.  Melvin is not the man he seems to be, and on the run his lack of character, and paranoia is clouding all of his judgment. 
FBI Agent Hughes is hot on Bernadette and Melvins tail. After a failed past case, Agent Hughes is determined to not to let this one slip through his hands. Hughes needs to redeem himself by any means necessary, even if his bosses have forbid him from continuing his pursuit. All their worlds on are on the verge of colliding and things start to change for everyone involved.

Thank you Netgalley for this ARC
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Bern and Melvin met in Philadelphia in the early 1960s and fell in love, but things go seriously awry and they must flee the United States, chased by an FBI agent as they head to Ghana where Mel's old college roommate is now President Nkrumah.  Twisted into this adventure is the reality that Nkrumah's power is against the USA's political interests as he has aligned with the Russians. A coup is in the works. Further twisted into this adventure are some mystical scenes surrounding Bern's heritage that is somehow tied in with mermaids and water; Melvin and Bert joining with a famous musician who has also had a key encounter related to water and a mermaid; and their journey, with the band,  toward President Nkrumah during chaotic and dangerous times and chaotic and dangerous weather.

Bazawuie crafts a compelling tale and plays the mystical parts just right.  I did not find myself liking any of the characters at all.  Yet the characters were compelling. Bern is the least unlikeable and presents a strong independent female persona who is most interesting as a child when her grand ma dies.  It is rather unclear what she ever saw in Melvin, who is sympathetic in some ways but also seems to be a mess from the start.  Oddly, the FBI agent chasing Bern and Melvin is someone you -- don't necessarily root for -- but you take an interest in how he will make out.  While there is humor in this novel, there is also violence and pain.  I would say my primary emotional reaction to it was mild depression.  Interesting. Worth reading. Really well told/written.  But hard to finish and feel fully satisfied.
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The writing here was superb, if the story itself took a while for me to get into. However, the mysticism and, again, the writing more than made up for it.
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QUICK TAKE: Dreamy and visionary and beautiful writing. A really great read and one of the most unique stories I've read this year. Loved it.
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This short novel packs a punch!  The Scent of Burnt Flowers takes place during the turbulent 1960's and includes many of the issues of the decade.  I enjoyed most of this book and found it to be interesting and historically accurate.  I did not care much for Melvin, the main character, which is probably the author's intent.  
Thanks to NetGalley and Random House Publishing - Ballantine for this ARC.  The opinion is my own.
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3.5 stars. This was a really interesting and hard to characterize book.  Another review said this was really two books in one and I agree.  I loved the main character and the story of the couple escaping to Ghana.  I didn't love the magical realism.  This author writes beautifully though and I would definitely read her next book.  Thanks to Net Galley and the publisher for a free copy in exchange for my honest opinion.
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The Scent of Burnt Flowers by Blitz Bazawule. Pub Date: June 28, 2022. Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟. This is the story of a couple who flee America following a tragedy to the country of Ghana in hopes of avoiding persecution and finding refugee with their friend who happens to be the current president. Along the way, their meet a musician who is scheduled to play for the President. Throughout their three day trek, the reader is exposed to crime, grief, determination, willpower and civil rights. This book was fresh, eye opening and left the reader thinking until the very last page. Thanks to #netgalley and #ballantinebooks for this e-arc in exchange for my honest review. #thescentofburntflowers #bookstagram #bibliophile #igreads #bookworm
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The Scent of Burnt Flowers is a novel set in the 60s, and it follows a young Black couple fleeing from the U.S. to Ghana. As we learn what forced them to run from the authorities back in America, we discover new and old secrets that threaten not only their safety, but also their very lives.

I fell in love with the premise of this book, its setting and the magical realism that Bazawule weaves into the novel. The story is told from multiple points of view and I usually don’t mind that, but in this particular case the author used so many flashbacks, sometimes from pretty background characters, that it slowed down the plot and ended up feeling clumsy. The style of writing wasn’t my cup of tea, but I was invested in what was going to happen to Bernadette, the main character that I liked the most, and I found the ending to be satisfying. Overall, this book definitely reads like a debut but I think that Bazawule is a good storyteller with impressive ideas.
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I would like to express my gratitude to NetGalley, Blitz Bazawule, and Ballantine Books for giving me an advanced reader’s copy of Mr. Bazawule’s debut novel The Scent of Burnt Flowers, which was published in June 2022.  I had high hopes for this book, as I liked it’s stated premise, and Mr. Bazawule is a multidisciplinary artist born in Ghana who has achieved success as a director of film and music videos and as an artist exhibiting at the Whitney Museum.  Alas, it fell quite short of my expectations.  

The plot follows a hapless black couple on the run during the 1960s after the man, Melvin, kills a white man with the white man’s gun while trying to protect his car and then himself after they were attacked by a group of white men in the South.  Melvin convinces his fiancée that she will be held to blame as much as he for the killing and to flee with him to Ghana, where it’s President is his college friend who owes him his life.  In a costume shop Melvin finds a clergyman’s collar, and the couple embark as an ill-suited pastor and his wife on an eventful journey to find the Ghanaian president.  Meanwhile, there’s an unauthorized FBI agent hot on their tail, who seems almost to thrive on disobeying orders, a potential third party love interest who makes Melvin extremely jealous, a person willing to sell out his supposed friends for revenge, US-backed military coups, mermaids and other mythical encounters, lies, and deceits.    

The magical realism didn’t blend well with the rest of the story.  There was one common thread involving the mermaid theme, but it was so disjointed from the rest of the novel that it just didn’t fit, and then there was an entirely separate thread involving shapeshifting beings that truly was out of place.  None of the characters were likable; it was difficult to care whether any were successful in their endeavors.  The book is easily forgettable;  I was glad it was short.  Based on my review, I won’t be sharing it on any of my other, regular platforms.
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One bad decision one night in Alabama in the late 1960's forces Melvin and Bernadette leave the us to Ghana in order to get some help.  Once they get there, they go on a wild goose chase, and possibly someone following them that will turn both of their worlds upside down.  

I enjoyed this book up until the very end.  It felt like there was no complete resolution to the story.  But up until then, I enjoyed the story very much and was rooting for them both.  There was a lot of drama, suspense throughout the entire story.  I enjoyed the flow of the story for the most part as well as the character development.  

I received a copy of the book via NetGalley and am voluntarily leaving an honest review of my own thoughts and opinions.
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A blend of historical fiction and magical realism set in the 1960s, The Scent of Burnt Flowers is the story of Melvin Johnson, a Black American who fled with his fiancée Bernadette from the US to Ghana after a fatal encounter with racist thugs in Alabama. Melvin hoped his Lincoln College friend Nukrumah, now President of the newly independent nation of Ghana, would provide a refuge for them. The couple’s arrival in Ghana, unfortunately for them, coincided with the coup that deposed Nukrumah, but the readers is treated to a vivid account of the coup and counter-coup, along with a brief history of the transformation of the Gold Coast colony into an independent nation. Suspenseful and very engaging, the novel moves deftly back and forth in time and from civil rights era America to revolutionary Ghana, providing both an interesting history lesson and a rollicking story.
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This book is interesting. I like the descriptions of Ghana and the history brought up throughout the story. However, the writing style is distracting for me. There are so many flashbacks, sometimes a flashback within another flashback.  And the transitions to the flashbacks all go something like this: "she looked out the window and saw a tree. It reminded her of 1943 in her childhood home when she talked to her father." Cue start of flashback. Also, the writing jumps abruptly from one perspective to 3rd person within one sentence. 
I like the idea of the mermaid and how it's connected to the people who were lost at sea during the slave trade. A lot of the imagery in the book is really cool. But the writing ended up being too distracting for me.
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There were so many things about this book that I enjoyed, and a few that I didn't. This was probably more like a 3.5. I enjoyed the social/civil rights commentary, the Ghanaian culture, the fast pace and the characters. It's trying to accomplish a lot- fugitive story, love triangle, political maneuvering, music, magical realism... There's a lot for such a short book and because of that there was a lack of depth to the story and characters. I also think the use of magical realism was unneeded and took away from the story for me- I don't particularly enjoy magical realism in general so don't let that stop you, I definitely enjoyed it overall!
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This work was surprisingly good! It took a while to get into the groove of it and when I did it was a fast read. Will be looking out for other title from this author. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
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The Scent of Burnt Flowers by Blitz Bazawule
Publication date: June 28, 2022

Date read: May 20, 2022

December, 1965. After a violent event in the US sends Melvin and Bernadette on the run from the police, they decide to flee to Ghana, where Melvin's old school friend now happens to be the president, Kwame Nkrumah. After arriving in Ghana, the couple come across Kwesi, one of Ghana's most beloved Highlife musicians, who is himself headed to a performance for President Nkrumah. But Melvin and Bernadette left one world in turmoil only to enter another, as President Nkrumah's regime is fighting off coupes at every turn. Steeped in magical realism and African history, this book blends truth with fantasy in a story about a couple trying to find peace and evaluate their relationship with each other.

This book is part historical fiction, part magical realism. If you don’t like magical realism, this book is not for you. I just want to get that out of the way right now. And if you’re not familiar with what magical realism is, this book uses real-life events and people living in the real world, but also, there are mermaids and bird soldiers. 

There is a lot I liked about this book, but there is also a lot that I could see other refers not taking to. This book takes a lot of tangents, leaving the main story to go into backstories of minor characters and history. I didn’t mind this, because I found the tangents really fun and interesting. But I could also see how this can throw off the pacing of the main story and potentially bother some readers. 

I really liked Bernadette and her inner turmoil about the choices she had to make. I didn’t like the men as much, but I’m also not sure I was supposed to; I did like their stories, though. Without giving anything away, I was on the edge of my seat to find out how Melvin’s story would play out, and he was the least likable character of the bunch. 

Another note, is that the book does not wrap itself up until a nice little bow, leaving the story a bit open-ended. I liked it, but again, can see how some readers wouldn’t. 

I thought the writing was very well done, pretty without being flowery, and the magic was woven in beautifully. This is Bazawule’s debut novel, and I will definitely be looking for more from him in the future. (I also just found out that he is a hip-hop artist and director, working on the 2023 musical adaptation of The Color Purple. Who knew?)

Overall I really enjoyed this book, and I think that most readers of contemporary or historical fiction will, if magical realism is a genre they can get behind. One of my favorites of the year so far. 

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Content warning: slavery (mentioned), alcoholism, accidental amputation, racism, bombings, murder, racial slurs, assault, attempted suicide, torture

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for an advanced copy of this book.
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This is a whooper of a tale! 
There is much to discuss for book clubs in this Historical fiction tale that has hints of magical realism. The story is told in multiple POV and deals with cultural identification . , civil rights and the political unrest of the 60’s and takes place in the Us and West Africa. A couple who meets in the US and experiencing racism decide to leave the US and go to Ghana where one of them has an old friend, the President. The adventure goes array and multiple colorful characters come to either aid or thwart the couple in their mission. The story is exciting, has good character development and I personally loved the magical elements in the story but wished they were fine tuned a bit to have stronger ties to the plot. Overall a good read 4 stars out of 5  Thank  you NetGalley for an  e-book Arc in exchange for my honest opinion.
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