Tag Archives: Vanessa Diffenbaugh

Friday Book Memes, 20-March-2015

20 Mar

Welcome to the second Friday the 13th edition of Book Blogger Hop, Book Beginnings and The Friday 56 hosted by Coffee Addicted WriterRose City Reader and Freda on Freda’s Voice. Head on over there and check out the other participating blogs.

Book Blogger Hop

This is my first Book Blogger Hop and I plan to make this a recurring thing (as long as I like the questions!). This week’s question is,

Do you read more on a rainy day or on a gorgeous day so you can be outside?

Definitely on a rainy day. On a nice day, I’m more likely to go for a run or on a bike ride, but on a rainy day I’m stuck inside and curling up with a good book sounds like a great option. Though, if it’s the day after a bike ride or a run I love reading by the pool rather than pushing myself too far.


Sadly, I have yet again not picked up a new book. So I will turn to my shelf and this week I’ve decided to feature The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh. My work book club read this last year and we liked the story a lot even if the main character was hard to like.


Book Beginnings is all about that very important opening sentence (or two) that us writers are always worrying about!

For eight years I dreamed of fire. Trees ignited as I passed them; oceans burned. The sugary smoke settled in my hair as I slept, the scent like a cloud left on my pillow as I rose.

Knowing the ending, this is such a great way to start the book. If you don’t know the ending, it might seem strange or give you the impression this book is going to be very different than it is, but I think it’s a good way to start. I don’t want to spoil anything because this is a great read, but the fire plays a huge role in the ending when the truth about the past is finally revealed.


Friday 56

The way this meme works is pretty simple. If you want to join in, head over to Freda’s blog and add your link.

*Grab a book, any book (I grab the one I’m currently reading)
*Turn to page 56 or 56% in your eReader
*Find any sentence, (or few, just don’t spoil it) that grab you.
*Post it.

Page 56 is a bit dull in this book, but we get a really good characterization of Elizabeth.

Her touch, too, was different; the thorough way she cleaned my hands, witout the heavy, silent burden in the actions of all my other foster mothers. I didn’t trust it.

This is great because it gives us two things; a characterization of how caring Elizabeth is of her new foster daughter and how untrusting Victoria is. Victoria is used to foster mothers who have her for the money and want to spend as little time with her as possible. Elizabeth is loving and wants a child to treat with kindness. The two clash heads if you couldn’t tell from this snippet!

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!


Book Club Reflection: The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

12 Aug

After two delays and someone else deciding to join us for our discussion, we were able to have a quick book discussion on Vanessa Diffenbaugh’s The Language of Flowers during lunch one day. Yay! We were very focused on her language because it fascinated us so much, so you’ll see that focus here.

We loved how the author described the foster system in America. Having read the author description, we understand that she knows a lot about it from personal experience and liked that she delivered a message about it without hitting us over the head with too much information.

A mother figure was obviously something Victoria lacked growing up. While it could have been Elizabeth, Victoria felt betrayed by Elizabeth and not ultimately aided by her. Renata was the type of mother figure that Victoria needed at eighteen. She was proud to be self-supportive and to have found a way to be useful and didn’t want anyone to shelter her. Renata made Victoria prove herself and the her best self before earning assistance. Renata provided her with food, shelter, and money when she needed it, but only as much as she needed exactly when it was necessary. She never coddled her which Victoria appreciated.

In some ways, Victoria seemed sheltered. She knew very little outside the foster care system and the things Elizabeth had taught her. Grant was sheltered in a similar way. He knew flowers; how to raise them, sell them, and use them. But he didn’t know a lot about how to interact with people or how to keep a house or deal with his emotional past. We felt that this bonded the characters together.

Victoria was a ‘scrappy’ character. I’ll use this world and not really have a good definition of it, so I asked Google, who says,

determined, argumentative, or pugnacious.

That seems perfect. She was out for herself in a rough way; resourceful seems a good word. She was easy to root for. I was afraid I wouldn’t like her at first, but her drive was wonderful and made the book for us.

Catherine seemed to suffer from some sort of mental illness, which was pretty apparent in her behavior. One of my fellow readers suspects that Elizabeth might have suffered as well. Her crippling fear that kept her in bed might have been a sign of something larger that was keeping her back.

The scene where Elizabeth wouldn’t get out of bed was such a turning point in the book and for each of the characters. Elizabeth had built up the day by buying a new dress and having Victoria count down the days to it, but then couldn’t follow through. It was no small matter for her to give up on that day. Our group was mad that Grant gave the baby to Elizabeth because we were afraid she would give up and crawl into bed again. Victoria was a girl when Elizabeth did that, but a baby couldn’t survive it.

We debated if this book had a ‘happy ending.’ I thought it did and that upset me because I wanted something, even if it was something small, to not work out for her. I felt (and the others agreed) that the ending was too clean. It was all bad knocks for Victoria and everything turned out okay, which is great, but we’re not sure if it’s entirely realistic. Could you really believe that everything was 100% alright? We couldn’t.

We talked about the yellow roses. Victoria’s dictionary defines them as ‘infidelity.’ The woman who sat with us during lunch said that she’d given yellow roses to a friend for a wedding recently. Hopefully that friend hadn’t read this book.

We asked what flower Victoria would give herself. We thought one with a message of ‘healing’ would be appropriate, but couldn’t find one in the dictionary with that message.

We talked about the flowers we’d give ourselves. S chose a purple coneflower, meaning ‘strength and health.’ With a smile, V chose strawberries; ‘perfection.’

The two of them chose for me. I would either get a bouvardia for ‘enthusiasm’ or a crocus for ‘youthful gladness.’

Our next book is Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn which I finished last week and absolutely loved. I look forward to the discussion!

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Book Review: The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh (3/5). Talk about a narrator that’s hard to like.

17 Jun

When one of the ladies in my book club recommended this to me, I was a bit hesitant but added it to my list anyway. When I saw it for 75% at a B&N closing sale, I had to pick it up. And then when the other bookie girls at work were looking for a book to read together, I volunteered my copy and they picked it. I’m glad I listened to that recommendation even though I was hesitant at first.

Cover Image via Goodreads.com

Cover Image via Goodreads.com

 The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

Victoria is about to age out of the foster care system and frankly she couldn’t care less. She’s only ever loved two things in her whole life: Elizabeth and flowers. Since she lost Elizabeth, she clings to flowers as tightly as possible. Elizabeth taught Victoria that there is a language of flowers and that people can communicate with the flowers emotions as specific as misanthropy and secret love. Victoria finds herself a job in a flower shop to pay rent and be close to the flowers she loves. Her natural talent finds her in the flower market where she sees someone from her past who will profoundly change her.

And now the spoilers. The story bounces back and forth between Victoria at 18 and Victoria at 11 when she lived with Elizabeth. The story’s unwind simultaneously and we discover that Elizabeth almost adopted Victoria but didn’t feel she could give her the family that a child ‘should’ have. Elizabeth wants to reconcile with her sister, Catherine, and nephew, Grant, to give Victoria a family, but Catherine’s illness makes this impossible. Elizabeth feels at a loss and Victoria feels rejected. In rage, she burns Elizabeth’s vineyard and claims abuse. In modern-day, Victoria meets Grant who has continued to live in the language of flowers and growing the blooms on Catherine’s farm. The two connect over their shared past and become lovers quickly, but when Victoria discovers that she’s pregnant, she’s not sure she can face raising a family or spending her life with one person.

I was hesitant at first, but I enjoyed the book more as it went on, though I was disappointed by the ending. Thus the 3/5 rating. Victoria is very unmotivated and very misanthropic at the beginning when she shuts out the only person that’s ever taken care of her. When she’s offered help, she turns away from it preferring to rough it on her own. She grows to be a small part of a family eventually and becomes more likable. I thought the ending was too happy. For such a down book, it had a very upbeat ‘the world is smiles and rainbows’ ending. I didn’t buy it.

I’ve never intimately known someone who is a product of the foster system, so I’m not a good judge of how accurate Diffenbaugh’s portrayal of Victoria is. Diffenbaugh herself is a foster parent and I trust her judgement that Victoria is an accurate portrayal. My coworker and I started discussing the book a bit and she was expecting the book to mention sexual abuse at the hands of foster parents but Diffenbaugh stuck to verbal and physical abuse.

Grant was by far my favorite character. He was so loving toward Victoria even when she pushed him away. He loved his mother, too, in his own way while she was alive. He came off as such a good person, it was hard not to like him!

It was hard for me to relate to Victoria but I could find myself relating to Elizabeth. She wanted someone to love who would love her back unconditionally and I think that’s something a lot of people look for. I’ve known for a long time that I eventually wanted to get married so when I dated, I was looking for someone to love me back unconditionally and I’m lucky that I found him early in life. Unfortunately, Elizabeth took it a bit too far and wanted to develop a traditional family when one wasn’t needed, but I think her heart was in the right place.

Vanessa Diffenbaugh

Vanessa Diffenbaugh

I liked the flashback scenes to Victoria’s time with Elizabeth. It gave a really good background into her character and helped explain why she was acting the way she did in the present part of the book. I liked that the author told that story slowly because it kept me engrossed in the book and wanting to know more!

As I said above, the ending was really disappointing to me. Victoria’s story was so much about loss and abandonment that it felt wrong for it to have a happy ending. I felt it would have been more appropriate for her to have either Grant or the baby, but both seemed like a stretch. I don’t think her character was ready to handle both relationships and I think she would have snapped.

Overall, the book was about forgiveness. Elizabeth had forgiven Katherine but Katherine couldn’t forgive. Elizabeth forgave Victoria but Victoria couldn’t forgive her. Katherine’s loneliness killed her while Victoria was able to reconcile with Grant, her baby, and Elizabeth and have a happy ending. I don’t like how it was told, exactly, but it works.

Writer’s Takeaway: I loved how Diffenbaugh used the language of flowers to give the story guidance. The subject kept coming up in so many parts of the book and affected so many of the characters in different ways. It helped Renata’s customers find happiness, it helped Victoria establish a successful business. It helped Grant connect with Elizabeth. I loved how central it was to the book and that gave it a very ‘real’ feeling to me. Characters should be passionate about something the way I’m passionate about writing or my co-worker is passionate about golf. Victoria had a passion for flowers.

I enjoyed the meanings in the names. The daughter’s name Victoria who lost herself in a Victorian language of flowers. Grant even names their daughter after a flower (Hazel). It was subtle, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.

Slow start and slow end, but I enjoyed the middle. Three out of Five stars.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Like this review? How about ‘Likeing’ it on Goodreads?

Related Posts:
Book Review: ‘The Language of Flowers’ by Vanessa Diffenbaugh | dodging commas
Book Review: The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh | Bookmagnet’s Blog
The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh | What Hannah Read

WWW Wednesday, 4-June-2014

4 Jun

SO MUCH PROGRESS!!! It feels good to participate in MizB’s WWW and be able to brag about it.

www_wednesdays4The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Currently reading: I’m making more steady progress on my NaNo. I’m about 3/4 of the way done with it and I’ve realized there’s a lot of filler I need to cut out. It will be an interesting revision process. I’m still on hold for The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson but I am next on the list. I’ll start on The Maze Runner by James Dashner again this weekend. I bet I’m done with the next section by the time I report back.. On audiobook I’m listening to The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian. It was the first book on my long list that the library had in non-CD-but-still-audio form. Go figure. My carpool buddy and I are still working on Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. I’m not sure how I feel about it still and we go long times without listening to it so I’m not sure how long this will take! My physical book at the moment is an ARC; O, Africa! by Andrew Lewis Conn. I’m still trying to figure out the voice of the narrator and it’s making it hard for me to get into, but I’m excited about something rooted in the 1920s!

Recently finished: Two! I finished two books! The first is The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh. This is for my informal work book club and I was the first to read it so I could pass it on. We’ll meet to discuss when the third woman has finished it. I also finished  Brain on Fire by Susannah Cahalan on audio. This was for one of my book clubs as well and I liked it a lot. The writing was a good mix of scientific fact and memoir. Look for reviews soon.

I’ve posted a review for I Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak yesterday. Enjoy!

Reading Next:  It’s going to be A Hologram for the King by Dave Eggers for my ‘edgy’ book club. This book sounds really cool so I’m excited to get started on it!

My goal is to finish reading my NaNo in the next week. What are your three Ws? Leave a comment and let me know and check out the original post on MizB’s blog!

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

WWW Wednesday, 28-May-2014

28 May

So there’s progress to report for MizB’s WWW but no finished books. I guess you win some and you lose some, eh?

www_wednesdays4The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Currently reading: I’ve made slow progress on my NaNo novel. I try to read it when I’m not really tired and can devote my whole brain to critiquing it, so I guess I’m saying I haven’t been reading it a lot. Still working on it. My other physical book is The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh. This is my work-book club book and I’ve got to read it first so I can pass it on to the next person.

I’m still on hold for The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson. Update pending. I finished the third part of The Maze Runner by James Dashner. This book is getting hard to put down which makes it difficult to stick with the Read Along timing. I’m doing my darndest! On audiobook I’m listening to Brain on Fire by Susannah Cahalan. I’m really enjoying it so far! The narrator is good and the story is really moving. It’s a great mix of medical study and human interest story. My carpool buddy and I are still working on Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. It’s a bit slow going because we don’t carpool every day and I had a call-in meeting last week, but we’ll get there.

Recently finished: Nothing finished, but my review for The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa went up last week. Enjoy!

Reading Next:  I’m really hesitant to say anything right now. I’m in the middle of so many that I’m not ready to look forward to another just yet. It might be a book club selection, but I’m hoping it’s an ARC!

Hopefully I can get one or two of these finished in the next week! What are your three Ws? Leave a comment and let me know and check out the original post on MizB’s blog!

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Recently Added To My To Read List

14 Feb

Wow, it’s been a while since I did one of these posts! I’ve only added five since then and I think I’ve taken more than that off. Something is finally going in the right direction for my list! Let me know if you’re familiar with any of these and if there are some I might want to reconsider.

  1. A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin: Do I really need to explain this one? I think I need to explain more why it wasn’t on my list until now. I apologize to be slow to pop culture.
  2. Made In America: An Informal History of the English Language in the United States by Bill Bryson: I’m going to start line editing my novel soon, and I want to learn more about how people spoke in the 1920s. My library has this on audiobook and I’d love to hear what Bryson as to say about the development of language since the 20s. Is my nerd showing? I’ll cover that, oops.
  3. The Mother Tongue: English and How it Got That Way by Bill Bryson: This just seemed like a logical addition to the above. This book focuses on English inside and outside of the US.
  4. Before You Know Kindness by Chris Bohjalian: This author will be coming to my area at the end of the year, so my book club added it to our list for the summer. The story is about a man whose daughter accidently shoots him at their home.
  5. The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh: A woman in my book club recommended this, saying she thought it seemed like something I’d like. I’m game. The story is about a homeless girl who has a talent for flowers and choosing the right flowers for the people who need them.

Wow, just five books! This is awesome for me. Any winners? Any duds? Let me know what you think of them in a comment, Reader! Oh, and happy Valentine’s Day!

Until next time, write on.