Mini Reviews: Language, Mindless and Woke

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Language of Flowers
by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

Victoria has spent her life bouncing from one foster home to the next. When she turns 18 she is emancipated and homeless. She starts out sleeping in parks but quickly finds a job at a florist shop which allows her to spend time caring for flowers, her one interest in life.

I know a lot of people loved this one, but it reminded me so much of White Oleander, another book which blends foster care and flowers. I couldn’t help comparing the two as I was reading and White Oleander had a much bigger impact on me.

Victoria’s utter and complete detachment is so foreign to me that it felt very fake. I’m sure there are people like this in the world, but I had a hard time believing some of her actions.

My favorite part of this one, by far, was the Victorian language of flowers. It’s something I knew very little about before reading this and I thought it was fascinating. I wish there had been a greater focus on that instead of the giant (a.k.a. predictable) secret that the novel kept building towards. The ending didn’t work for me either; it was a bit too easy and cookie-cutter.

BOTTOM LINE: An average story with some interesting elements, not something that will stick with me, but I didn’t dislike it.

Mindless Eating
Why We Eat More Than We Think
by Brian Wansink

I loved this one. I’m not a fan of self-help books or diet books, but give me something where research has been done on how the human brain works and I’m sold. This particular book gives us study after study showing how and why we eat the way we do. I loved seeing all the examples of the author’s theories in action; stale popcorn at the movies, bottomless soup bowls, full dishes of Buffalo wings,

The mindless margin was a particularly helpful bit. Apparently our bodies won’t notice if we eat about 200 calories more or less, so aim for less and your body will never know! There are the obvious hints about using smaller plates, leaving the serving dishes in the kitchen to make yourself think a bit harder about that second helping, and keeping food out of your line of sight, etc. But most of their info comes across as fresh and interesting.

Helpful tips with easy real-life application. A must for anyone attempting to change their eating habits or anyone interested in seeing how our brains work.

When She Woke
by Hillary Jordan

The concept is incredibly good. What if we couldn’t escape our sins or hide them from others? What if our skin was dyed a specific color showing our crimes to the world? In theory I should have loved this dystopian re-telling of The Scarlet Letter. However, the book never quite found its footing with me.

There was no subtlety in their stark world. Either you were a crazy religious fanatic dead-set on persecuting “criminals” or you were the victim of their persecution. The main character, Hannah, starts out firmly in the religious camp and slowly finds her prejudices and belief system crumbling away as she sees the hypocritical world around her.

One of the best parts of The Scarlet Letter is the inner struggle of the father of the child (I won’t say who just in case someone out there hasn’t read that classic yet). His guilt and self-torture were so powerful. I felt like the equivalent character in this book just came across as weak. He’s married, but what he does is ok because he loves her. There's a little character growth in the novel, but it felt like too little too late.

I do think this one is well written and interesting. There were parts that were powerful and moving, but overall it fell short.

BOTTOM LINE: I wanted more from a book with so much promise. I think this would make a great book club selection. It brings up a slew of controversial issues, though I wish it would have shown a bit more diversity in its agenda.


Kailana said...

I have the Language of Flowers and Mindless Eating on my wish list... One day... I am glad you liked Mindless Eating. I read When She Woke and I have to agree with a lot of what you said. :)

annieb said...

I just ordered Mindless Eating (something I do with regularity) from my library. I think I will take a pass on the other two. I like the mini reviews.

Jenna said...

I adored "When She Woke." It was such an addictive read! But I agree with what you said -- it had a lot of promise, but failed to deliver.

Jenners said...

Thanks for your honest reviews. I think I might feel the same way about the Flower and When She Woke book so I was glad to see your thoughts on them. The Mindless Eating book sounds intriguing and worthwhile.

Kat @ NoPageLeftBehind said...

I have to add Mindless Eating to my TBR! Also, I definitely agree about When She Woke making a great book club selection. I can envision some heated debates arising with the issues brought up in the novel!

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Kailana - Glad I'm not along on When She Woke.

annieb - The mini reviews are a fun way for me to get my thoughts on a few books done when I don't have tons to say about each book.

Jenna - It was addictive, I just wanted so much more!

Jenners - I bet you would like it, you have found some great entertaining nonfiction books and I think this one fits that category.

Kat - I do love a good book club debate.

Trish @ Love, Laughter, Insanity said...

I'm glad to see your "eh" thoughts on The Language of Flowers. I liked it ok but it didn't stick with me enough to review it. I had a really tough time relating to the main character...

Mindless Eating, however, sounds much better!

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Trish - When a book is meh for me I like doing mini reviews. I felt the same way about the main character in Flowers.

Nikki Steele said...

Just a little while ago I stood in the bookstore going back and forth over When She Woke. I think I did end up putting it down because it seemed somehow unwieldy for one book. Interesting to hear your take on it.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Nikki - I got it from the library, so I'm glad I didn't buy it.