Arden Reviews: June by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore

IMG_0629Book: June

Author: Miranda Beverly-Whittemore

Genre: Fiction

Basic Description: Cassie Danvers is holed up in her family’s crumbling mansion in small-town Ohio, mourning the loss of her grandmother, June. But the noise of the rusted doorbell forces her out of isolation. Cassie has been named the sole heir to legendary movie star Jack Montgomery’s fortune.

Soon Jack’s famous daughters arrive, entourage in tow, determined to wrestle Cassie away from an inheritance they feel is theirs. Together, they come to discover the true reason for June’s silence about the summer she was eighteen, when Hollywood came to town, and June and Jack’s lives were forever altered. Shifting deftly between the past and present, Cassie and her guests will be forced to reexamine their legacies, their definition of family, and what it truly means to love someone, steadfastly, across the ages.

Arden’s Thoughts: I found myself strangely intrigued, and annoyed, with the characters in June. The only character I truly loved was the house… A house full of memories and character yearning to reach its full potential again.

June, one of our main characters, was so stiff, I wanted to reach through the pages and break her a little. Cassie, our protagonist, felt slightly tragic, but slightly bratty too. Jack’s famous daughters and their employees were… well, every bit as Hollywood as any Kardashian or Swifty gracing the front of tabloids peppering grocery store aisles.

Yet… I rooted for each character to find his or her path. It took me longer than usual to read this book because every detail contributed a piece to the puzzle of June. We’re taken on a journey through Cassie, June’s granddaughter, and Lindie, June’s childhood friend, into a woman we never really know.

Even after completing the book, I’m still not sure I know the namesake of this book. And isn’t that what happens when others tell our story? They see only what we allow them to see. We cover pieces of ourselves we don’t like and reveal the areas with which we’re okay. Maybe that’s why this book was hard read for me… when we read our story through someone else’s eyes we see what they see; the good, the bad, and the not-so-true.

June‘s a mixed bag of internal struggle, youthful ignorance, and hope deferred. It’s a great one for a book club. You’ll need to discuss this book for hours to fully grasp its complete beauty.

Arden Reviews: The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

IMG_2052Book:  The Language of Flowers

Author:  Vanessa Diffenbaugh

Genre:  Fiction

Basic Description:  The Victorian language of flowers was used to convey romantic expressions: honeysuckle for devotion, asters for patience, and red roses for love. But for Victoria Jones, it’s been more useful in communicating mistrust and solitude. After a childhood spent in the foster-care system, she is unable to get close to anybody, and her only connection to the world is through flowers and their meanings.

Now eighteen and emancipated from the system with nowhere to go, Victoria realizes she has a gift for helping others through the flowers she chooses for them. But an unexpected encounter with a mysterious stranger has her questioning what’s been missing in her life. And when she’s forced to confront a painful secret from her past, she must decide whether it’s worth risking everything for a second chance at happiness.

Arden’s Thoughts: I think it’s fair to say that most of us don’t want to be judgmental. We want to give people the benefit of the doubt or believe they’re doing the best they can.

But, what if you learned a person left her newborn baby in an apartment alone while she went to the grocery store? Would you be so quick to allow this person to explain herself or label her a bad mother?

What if you learned she’s barely 19 and had no support system because she’s a product of the foster system? That she lived with multiple families before she was deemed unadoptable. From age 10 until 18 she lived in a group home and at 18 she aged out of the system with no high school degree, no training, and no place to call home.

What would you think about her then?

It’s interesting how a book, a fictional character, can shake up the way we see the world. I’ve recently been introduced to an organization called Youth Villages, a private nonprofit organization dedicated to helping emotionally and behaviorally troubled children and their families live successfully. I’m working with the fine folks in Charlotte on its fundraising event KiteTales: An Evening of Stories That Soar that will benefit a program dedicated to helping young people like Victoria.

The event will take place May 2 from 6-9 p.m. at the Mint Museum Uptown. Our guest speaker will be New York Times best-selling author Vanessa Diffenbaugh. You’re invited!

Funds raised from KiteTales will support YVLifeSet, a program within Youth Villages. Since 1999, YVLifeSet has helped provide young adults with the tools they need to realize their own amazing potential. The model has been refined and tested and refined some more, but YVLifeSet begins with one simple tenet: Believing in the potential of every single kid to become an incredible adult. What an outstanding opportunity for our next generation.

What I loved about this book, and how it drew me into Youth Villages so rapidly, is I got to see Victoria be honest with who she is but also open up to the potential of being a stronger version of herself. She could actually love her daughter, be a mother, and be a functioning part of a family. She had never seen that scenario play out positively so it took her a long time to believe it could. It also took really patient people to love her through the process.

It excites me when a book can spark a new passion within me. The Language of Flowers sparked a fire to dive in deeper with Youth Villages. I invite you to consider diving in too. Save the date and plan to attend Kite Tales May 2, from 6-9 p.m. at the Mint Museum Uptown. For more information, email John Horton, director of development, at john.horton@youthvillages.org or me at ardensbookclub@gmail.com

WBTV Segment from Monday, Feb. 6

I love watching first time authors blow up their scene. I got to feature a few of them in this segment on WBTV. Please go purchase their books (links below) and show these great authors some major love!

Soulmated (Joining of Souls) by Shaila Patel

Closer Than Close: Awakening the Freedom of Your Union with Christ by Dave Hickman

The Fifth Avenue Artists Society by Joy Callaway