My review of this book will appear in the Sunday, December 2, 2012 edition of the Burlington Times News
We meet Victoria Jones on her eighteenth birthdMy review of this book will appear in the Sunday, December 2, 2012 edition of the Burlington Times News
We meet Victoria Jones on her eighteenth birthday, the day of her emancipation from the foster care system. Abandoned as an infant, Victoria has bounced from foster home to foster home and finally to a series of impersonal group homes when it became evident to her social worker that she would never be adopted. Emancipation leaves Victoria with nowhere to turn. With no safety net and limited social and coping skills, she ends up sleeping in a public park, tending a stolen garden. Flowers, it seems, are the only things that wriggle through the cracks in Victoria’s prickly shell. Renata owns Bloom, a small florist shop in San Francisco. When Victoria approaches, dirty and disheveled with leaves in her hair, Renata takes pity on her, offering her five dollars to unload the day’s flower shipment. Quickly Renata recognizes Victoria’s natural talent with flowers, and hires her to assist with arrangements for weddings. Victoria’s arrangements are more than beautiful – each flower is carefully chosen for a specific purpose. A foster mother taught her the Victorian language of flowers, and Victoria weaves their meanings into her arrangements . Daffodils represent new beginnings, lily of the valley signifies the return of happiness, jonquil means desire, and hazel stands for reconciliation. Victoria’s reputation spreads, and clients seek her out, hoping that her flowers will fix the broken or disappointing parts of their lives. She listens carefully to each person and makes a list of the key words and phrases that best summarize their heart’s desires. As adept as Victoria is at sorting out the hopes, dreams and relationship issues of her customers, she is unable to reconcile herself with the shadows in her own past. A chance encounter with a vendor at the flower market brings her darkest secret and deepest regrets surging into the present, and Victoria must decide whether she can seek the forgiveness she craves in order to move forward and find happiness. I could not put this book down! My dear friend Karen put it in my hands when she returned it to the library, and told me to read it ASAP. I am so glad that she did. Victoria Jones is one of the most frustrating, heartbreaking, stubborn and endearing characters I have encountered in a while. I spent a fair amount of time wanting to shake her, because I was so involved in her story it hurt to watch her sabotage herself time and again. Sarah Addison Allen is one of my favorite authors, and Vanessa Diffenbaugh’s style reminds me quite a bit of Allen’s writing. Diffenbaugh’s enchanting story flows beautifully, compelling readers to keep turning the pages. I hope that she is already working on her next book, because I have added her to my must-read list. The Language of Flowers is an amazing, triumphant coming of age story, but it’s so much more than that. It’s a beautiful meditation on love, trust, and exactly what binds families together. Just make sure you keep the tissue handy, because you’re going to need it! ...more
My review from the September 16, 2012 edition of the Burlington Times-News (Burlington, NC).
Jacob Marlowe is the last living werewolf, and his days arMy review from the September 16, 2012 edition of the Burlington Times-News (Burlington, NC).
Jacob Marlowe is the last living werewolf, and his days are numbered. The World Organisation for the Control of Occult Phenomena’s hunters have Jake squarely in their sights; they’re simply waiting for the next full moon to strike. Jake isn’t overly concerned about his impending death. Although he is physically healthy, Jacob is lonely and depressed. The monster within prevents the man from developing any long-term, meaningful relationships because the hunger turns all humans into potential victims. When the moon is full, any human will do, but when the werewolf has a deeper connection to the victim, the killing is so much more satisfying. In his 201 years, Jacob has amassed a sizeable fortune, which allows him to enjoy life’s luxuries, but it’s a hollow comfort. He is haunted by the lives he’s taken, and no amount of expensive booze, hired companionship and physical comfort quiets the voices of the dead souls murmuring in his head. Jacob’s money also provides him the freedom to travel extensively, using a never ending variety of false identities. Travel and anonymity are particularly important, as he is able to spend his full moon nights in different places around the world. After all, even one victim per month will add up to create a suspicious pattern in the eyes of the authorities over time. Jake’s acceptance of his inevitable death is troubling to his only friend, Harley. Harley has been Jacob’s lifeline for over fifty years. As a WOCOP agent, Harley has spent decades throwing out false trails for the hunters to protect his friend. At 75, Harley just wants Jacob to hold on until his death, so that he won’t have to spend his final days alone. That’s why Harley continues with business as usual, lining up new identities, lodging and travel plans to get Jacob safely through another month, despite Jacob’s protests. Everything changes when Harley’s WOCOP cover is blown. Hunters, dissatisfied with the idea of Jacob willingly submitting to death, use Harley as leverage to goad Jake into a fight. Harley’s death, followed by a chance encounter at Heathrow Airport, yanks Jacob back fully into the life he was previously so ready to leave behind. The chase is on, spanning oceans and continents, and it seems that WOCOP is not the only group tracking the last living werewolf. Jake is a shameless, selfish monster. He embraces his monstrosity, yet his character is sympathetic and even occasionally endearing. He is not a victim, though he did not choose to become a werewolf. He struggles to live with his curse, because he lacks the courage to kill himself. Jacob Marlowe is a complex monster perfect for the 21st century. Author Glen Duncan has crafted a completely different sort of werewolf story. The Last Werewolf is one part bittersweet reflection, one part gore and two parts white-knuckle roller-coaster ride. I didn’t want to put it down, and I breathed a big sigh of relief when I stumbled ...more
My review published in the August 19, 2012 Burlington Times-News:
Nell Slattery awakens in an Iowa hospital, broken and bruised with no memory of who sMy review published in the August 19, 2012 Burlington Times-News:
Nell Slattery awakens in an Iowa hospital, broken and bruised with no memory of who she is, what has happened, or who the people surrounding her bed are. She is one of the only two survivors of a plane crash, left to ponder why she survived when 152 other people did not.
She learns that she and her younger sister, Rory, run a successful art gallery in New York. Nell has been married to Peter for five years. By all accounts, she has a good life.
Without her memories, Nell is dependent on her family and friends to tell her who she is. Her family and friends, however, have their own agendas, and Nell quickly begins to suspect that they’re not telling the whole story.
Her mother and sister are trying to re-write their family story, glossing over the unpleasant parts and painting the past with a brighter brush. Peter recognizes Nell’s amnesia as his opportunity to delete his recent affair from the landscape of their marriage. He confesses to a one-night-stand, tells Nell that they were working things out, and neglects to mention their impending divorce.
Nell’s father, Francis Slattery, is the missing piece of the puzzle. A world-renowned and reclusive artist, Francis abandoned his family when Nell was thirteen. Nell, his favorite and his protégé, took his desertion the hardest, giving up painting forever. Rory and Indira, reluctant to dredge open old wounds, give Nell only the barest bones of the story.
Frustrated with her family’s less-than-forthcoming ways, Nell contacts Jamie Reardon, a young local reporter. She offers him a deal – her exclusive story in return for the facts of her life. Jamie agrees eagerly, and begins pulling the skeletons out of Nell’s family closet.
As Nell struggles with the fact that she doesn’t know who to trust, Anderson Carroll, the other survivor, becomes her rock. Anderson is an up-and-coming Hollywood star, but his fall from the sky has shaken him to his core, leaving him wracked by pain, haunted by nightmares and unable to sleep. He credits Nell with saving his life, and vows to be there for her as she attempts to reclaim hers.
What follows is a roller-coaster ride of an identity crisis. Alarmed by the picture that is emerging; uptight, career-focused, unforgiving and beige, Nell resolves to embrace life and reinvent herself. The lingering question for Nell, of course, is whether it’s possible to reinvent yourself when you have no idea who you were before.
Author Allison Winn Scotch has a great eye for details, peppering the novel with music and pop culture references, and populating it with flawed, but likeable characters. The story’s pacing is genius. Readers discover Nell’s life with her, painstakingly slowly at first, but with a greater urgency as her memories begin to seep back in. By the last hundred pages, I couldn’t bear to put it down.
Scotch has penned a thoughtful, bittersweet page-turner. I was engrossed in Nell’s story from the first page, and didn’t want the story to end. ...more
This book is going to take me a while to digest. On the surface, it is a compelling, page-turning read. Scratch that surface, and there's lots and lotThis book is going to take me a while to digest. On the surface, it is a compelling, page-turning read. Scratch that surface, and there's lots and lots of food for thought. ...more
My Monster Burrufu is a sweet story about seven year old Olivia and her new best friend, Burrufu, who happens to be a monster. Olivia meets Burrufu onMy Monster Burrufu is a sweet story about seven year old Olivia and her new best friend, Burrufu, who happens to be a monster. Olivia meets Burrufu on her first night in her new home, but she isn't frightened by him, because her father has told her that a monster in the house is good luck. Burrufu is a loner who prefers to keep away from people, but Olivia slowly wins him over, and for the first time in a very long time, Burrufu finds himself enjoying human company. Then Olivia's father discovers him, and in a frightened panic, overreacts, calling in local law enforcement and the military. Olivia's dad is only able to set things right when he learns to see past his first impression and get to know Burrufu for more than just his frightening appearance.
Author Alberto Corral has penned a sweet story for younger children about the importance of getting to know people without judging them....more