November 11, 2012
Posted by on
I am a great fan of Kate Morton. I have read and enjoyed her previous works, The House at Riverton, The Forgotten Garden and The Distant Hours. The Secret Keeper (B+) is slightly less wonderful.
The Nicolson family has birthday traditions, one of which involves the cake being cut by a special knife that has a red ribbon tied around the handle. Laurel and her mother (Dolly) realize the knife was left at the house. Dolly heads off first to retrieve it. Laurel intends to do the same but has been daydreaming in the tree house just a bit too long. As she begins to move from her perch, she witnesses her mother, Dolly, kill a man. She pieces together the scenario as only a 16 year old can.
The police are summoned and it is determined that Dolly acted in self-defense, killing a man that has been haunting their neighborhood. The events of the day are kept from the younger children and Laurel is asked to keep it secret. Fast forward to 2011, Dolly is now very old and near death living in a nursing facility. The family gathers to celebrate her 90th birthday. As everyone reminisces about the past, the secret that Laurel has kept for 50 years haunts her. She needs to unravel the past events now while her mom is still alive and somewhat able to talk about it.
The “secret” takes 480 pages to be revealed. Most of what is written is not necessary to the story. This is a huge difference from what Morton has written before. There is no doubt that she is a great storyteller but The Secret Keeper dragged along at a snail’s pace. The last 50 pages were worth the read and the ending was Morton’s usual twisty/turny wonderful. There was a bit too much filler and became monotonous. I stuck with The Secret Keeper because Morton has always delivered and I expected the same now. I can’t say I was disappointed just a bit under whelmed.
I am still a strong fan of Kate Morton and I encourage you to read The Secret Keeper. It is surely worth the time it takes to get through the 480 pages and will make an excellent book club selection too.
December 11, 2011
Posted by on
I decided that I wanted to read The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh (B) the moment I saw the title. Reading is my number one hobby, closely followed by quilting and gardening. Recently, I discovered a book on Victorian flower appliqué. The pattern book briefly touched on the idea that different flowers meant different things. Mostly the book depicted the flowers that spoke of romance but now I know that they can mean so much more.
Abandoned as a baby, Victoria was in foster care until the age of 18. Her life in foster care was troubled and unhappy. She was hopeful that every new placement would become the home she was searching for. Not until she was placed with Elizabeth did she believe that it was possible to find love and acceptance. Victoria did her best to test Elizabeth’s resolve to adopt her by behaving badly and destructively. Elizabeth passed every test and never disappointed Victoria until adoption day. When the big day arrives, Elizabeth is frozen with fear and the belief that she can’t provide the home that Victoria deserves. This fear destroys Victoria’s dreams and cements her belief that she is incapable of loving or being loved.
Elizabeth shared her gift of flowers with Victoria. She taught her that flowers can communicate messages that can be more powerful than words. Victoria is relaxed and comfortable in the presence of flowers and so she uses this part of her past to establish her future. Her past does more than sustain her; it comes back to haunt her. Once again, Victoria must struggle with acceptance, worth and love as well a very painful secret.
Honestly, I can’t say that I enjoyed reading The Language of Flowers. At times, Victoria frustrated me. I wanted to shake her up and end her pity party and have her get on with life selflessly. A little tension in a story can be good but too much can make the reader crazy. Often I was crazy and was thankful that the chapters were short so that I could take breaks. Also, I didn’t enjoy the portrayal of the foster care system as an evil institution that doesn’t do anyone any good. This was unfair to the many wonderful foster families who provide shelter, comfort and love to children. Things can and do go wrong but not all the time.
I was not disappointed by the title. I did learn the language of flowers and won’t look at a bouquet without deciphering its meaning. My recommendation would be to “take time to smell the flowers” and have their scent carry you while reading this novel. Read more of this post