Book Review: The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh {Plus Book Club Discussion/Questions}

Review of Vanessa Diffenbaugh's The Language of Flowers

At the beginning of the summer, I put together a summer reading list and challenged myself to get all the way through the list before the official start of fall.  I’m happy to say that I made it through almost all of them, plus a few others that weren’t originally on my list!  (You can find the list HERE and my reviews HERE.) The very first book I picked from my list was The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh.  I hadn’t heard anything about it other than the synopsis I read on Goodreads.

This post contains affiliate links which if clicked on and a purchase is made I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.

In June of this year, we took a vacation with my husband’s family (parents, siblings/spouses and kids).  It was a lot of fun, but after being with everyone all day, I needed a little bit of time to unwind and relax.  I’d brought The Language of Flowers with me and found myself trying to find time to read it over the course of our vacation.  Everyone else would be inside visiting or watching a show and I was outside on the porch reading my book.  I was instantly caught up in Victoria’s story and knew within a few chapters that I wanted to suggest it for our book club.

My Summary and Review (5 stars):
Victoria Jones grew up in the foster care system bouncing from home to home, only finding comfort in flowers and their meanings.  Now eighteen and emancipated from the system, Victoria must find a way to make a living or be homeless.  She is offered a job working at Bloom and she soon discovers she has a gift for helping others through the flowers she chooses for them.  Unexpectedly, someone from her past emerges and she’s forced to confront issues that have haunted her for years.  Victoria must decide if it’s worth the risk to delve deeper, and possibly lose what stability she’s found, for a second chance at happiness.

The Language of Flowers could have been a depressing story, but instead it was thought provoking and beautifully written.

Book Club Discussion Questions:

  • What did you think about the story telling style of the book? (switching from past to present)
  • Do you think the novel provided a fair depiction of the foster care system?
  • Why was Victoria so empathetic to the needs of others and is able to pick them the perfect flowers to express their feelings, but she has no sense of love or empathy for herself?
  • Do you agree with Victoria’s decision to give her baby to Grant?  Can you empathize with some of her feelings as a new mother?
  • Use one or two words to describe the book as a whole.
  • What do you think about the language of flowers?  Do you think the meaning a flower has gives some kind of power?
  • What would your wedding bouquet say about you and your spouse?  Is there any truth to it?
  • Do you like the openness of the ending?

If you’d like to read the other book reviews and questions/discussion I’ve posted about, you can click on the links below.

*May contain spoilers*

Summer 2016 Reading List Reviews and Ratings
My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton and Jodi Meadows
Shatter Me by Tahera Mafi

Happy reading!

Book Review: My Lady Jane by Hand, Ashton and Meadows {plus Book Club Discussion/Questions}

If you like The Princess Bride, you can't help but like My Lady Jane! (Book Review and Book Club Discussion and Questions)

At the beginning of the summer, I mentioned that I am in a young adult fiction book club.  Each book we read is suggested by another member of the group and then we meet every other month to discuss it and, of course, visit and eat treats.

This month at our book club we talked about the book My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton and Jodi Meadows.  After reading it, I have to say that it is easily one of my favorite books and I don’t hesitate to recommend it to anyone.

This post contains affiliate links which if clicked on and a purchase is made I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.

My Summary and Review (5 stars):
My Lady Jane is based loosely on the historical figure Lady Jane Grey, who was Queen of England for nine days due to being named successor by her first cousin once removed and current king, Edward VI, who was dying.  On the ninth day, she was removed from the throne by those who wished for Edward’s half-sister, Mary (also known as Bloody Mary), to be queen and charged with high treason.  Ultimately, she and her husband were executed.

Not a very happy story is it?  Well the authors didn’t think so either, so they decided to rewrite history to their liking, while including some elements of magic.  They tweaked some of the details and changed some of the timeline so that ultimately there was a happy ending.

My Lady Jane is funny and will have you laughing out loud throughout the book.  It is an easy and light read that you won’t be able to put down.  If you like The Princess Bride, you will love My Lady Jane.

Book Club Discussion Questions:

  • How does sexism come into play between the characters?  
  • How/where is sexism seen in the world today?
  • What did you think about Edward’s inner struggle? (desire to be king/not be king, Verities vs Edians, etc)
  • Did you trust Gracie?  Why or why not?
  • Did the characters show characteristics of their animal form when they were in their human form?

Happy reading!

Book Review: Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi {plus Book Club Discussion/Questions}

Book Review: Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi {plus Book Club Discussion/Questions}

Every other month, a group of my friends and I get together for a young adult book club.  Someone in the group hosts and we all discuss the most recent book we read, eat treats and laugh a lot.

This month, we read Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi.

My summary and review (4 stars):
(*contains spoilers*)
When I first started reading this book, I wasn’t sure I was going to like it.  (I wanted to like it because I want to go into most books with the hope that I will like them and they will be worth my time.)  If I hadn’t read the synopsis, I would have had a hard time figuring out what was going on since the story starts after a lot has already happened.  Juliette seems like a likeable enough person, but you can tell that being isolated for so long is taking a toll on her.  She’s trying to keep herself from going crazy but bits of it creep in, which I think is to be expected.

When Adam shows up in her cell, I was worried that the book was going to turn into this romance where because he’s nice to her that she falls in love with him.  Turns out she already knew him from her time before The Reestablishment came and she was already in love with him but she thinks that he doesn’t remember her.  As time passes, they become friends (again) and she begins to trust him.  I think it’s reasonable to believe that a person who isn’t able to touch anyone else (because their touch is deadly) would both fear and desire trust and acceptance from others.

After a time, Juliette is taken up to meet Warner (the other guy in the love triangle), transferred to a type of military headquarters and given nice food, running water, clean clothes and a bed.  Juliette is visibly shaken by this after being kept in such an awful place for 2/3 of a year and knowing that so many other people in the world are living in poverty.  I think the author did a good job of showing Juliette’s raw emotion.  Juliette reacted the way you would expect: with anger and a desire to rebel.  We see this anger and hatred, especially towards Warner and The Reestablishment, and it is what drives her until she discovers that Adam can touch her without getting hurt.  Then of course her libido kicks in and Juliette uses her love, or what she understands love to be, as her motivation to keep going.

When Juliette and Adam escape to his “house” and stay with Adam’s little brother, the libido kicks in again and I was ready to skip through a few paragraphs because I get tired of these type of scenes.  Thankfully, nothing really happens and the next day Kenji (Adam’s friend in the army) shows up injured and convinces Adam and Juliette that he knows of a safe house he can take them too.  The place he takes them to is Omega Point and is the headquarters for the resistance, which we find out that Kenji is a part of and also has a special power.  Juliette meets Castle, who is the leader of the rebellion, and helps her feel at ease and more comfortable in her abilities and less afraid of hurting anyone by giving her a special super suit.  And then the book ends.

I hated the ending.  It was too abrupt.  At the same time, it did make me want to pick up the next book and start reading so I guess that’s saying something.  I had a few things about the book that I didn’t like:

  • Juliette would use these metaphors that sometimes made sense and sometimes made no sense at all (this is a recurring theme throughout the book).  I think that by doing this, the author maybe just meant to further show her fragile mental state but it was frustrating as a reader because when I read/hear a metaphor, I want it to make sense.  I don’t want to wade through a lot of words to find the meaning.
  • I had a hard time picturing the world the characters lived in.  Was it completely desolate with buildings few and far between?  Was it cities that had been mostly destroyed but people were still living there?  What was the landscape like?
  • From the time Adam and Juliette escape from Warner, it’s less than a week and Juliette goes from being insecure and afraid of her powers to confident and ready to become a part of the rebellion.  You can tell that she’s trying to be strong and have courage but this seemed like a big jump for me.

Even though there were things about the book I disliked, overall, I enjoyed the book.  If you like dystopian/paranormal books, then this is for you.  It has kind of an X-Men feel to it.  (I haven’t read any of the other books in the series as of yet, but I understand from others that they answer a lot of questions that that first book brings up.)

Book Review: Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi {plus Book Club Discussion/Questions}

Book Club Discussion Questions:

  • Do you think the author’s background may have influenced how her characters interact in the book? (Tahereh is Iranian-American–her parents are immigrants.)
  • There was a lot of backlash from the Muslim community when this book came out.  Why do you think that is?
  • How did you like the author’s/Juliette’s writing style?
  • What does the writing style show about the mental stability/progression of the Juliette?
  • Do you think Juliette’s reaction to not being touched her whole life is normal?
  • Do you see any similarities between their world and ours in terms of how we react to people who are different?  Cultural?  Political?
  • Do you think there is an inherent part of us that makes us want to touch other people?
  • How did you feel about the use of metaphor throughout the book? 
  • Discuss the symbolism of birds.

What did you think about the book?