Book Review – Black Flowers, White Lies

Black Flowers, White Lies by Yvonne Ventresca

To be completely honest, I approached this second full-length fictional work by Yvonne Ventresca will a fair amount of trepidation. First off, I don’t really read much Young Adult these days. Secondly, because of my current field of study, I usually find myself engaging in what my program considers “works of literary greatness” and which I tend to refer to as “historically important, and yet, so very, very, dry and disinteresting.” Thus, I wasn’t sure I was even in the right place to fully appreciate such a book and worried that I might not give it a fair chance. Nonetheless, I was approached to do a review by a very trusted book blogger. In fact, I often refer to her as my book twin. Supernatural elements you say? Well, she does know that I have a weakness for anything related to hauntings. So, I figured, why not? I have to start reviewing books sometime right? So here goes…

Turns out, this book is just the kind of thing I am always looking for. As you can see from the Amazon description I’ll link below, this novel focuses around Ella Benton during the summer before her sophomore year. Already dealing with the typical problems of teenage life, Ella is processing the upcoming marriage of her mom and the addition of a step-brother she has never met. Compounding this is the growing disconnect between her and her best friend, Grace. Seem stressful enough? Have I mentioned that she also has a near obsession with her dead father and a preoccupation with the supernatural?

Like many of my favorite books, the supernatural elements in this book start with a slow burn and rapidly culminate after the first five chapters. Mixing together the ideas of never truly knowing others, or ourselves, Ventresca weaves a completely believable tale of teenage longing: the longing to be connected to something bigger, something outside ourselves. But what is this thing Ella is connected to? Is this a story of a haunting or a story of mental instability? The best part about this narrative is that rather than keep you guessing the entire book, the author cleverly lays clues to misdirect the reader at every turn.  By the time the truth is revealed, it is no longer a question of whether or not you guessed the truth, but rather, how did Ventresca have us wound so tight? Like any great storyteller, her version of foreshadowing actually creates an atmosphere where you wholeheartedly relate to Ella. And what more could we really ask for in any book?

Therefore, I would recommend this book to anyone who loves the YA genre, anyone who loves tales of the supernatural, or anyone who likes to feel connected to a protagonist while also experiencing a fast moving plot. Believe it or not – good character development with a fast moving plot can be hard to find these days. As far as low points? I could only find two. The first is that some of the transitions between scenes felt a little choppy. However, I think this was solely due to the formatting on my kindle. If this kind of thing bothers you, I’d recommend the print version. Secondly, while I love the ending to the story, I do wish that the author would have unpacked the content in the last few pages a little more thoroughly. And by thoroughly, I really mean in greater length! By this point, I was so invested in Ella, that I just wanted a little bit more of her. If this sounds at all like something you would like, please check it out. Trust me, you will read it in one sitting.

Curious about more content? This book would make a great book club pick to discuss mental health, family dynamics, belief systems, inadvertent bullying, and differences in emotional needs.

I will be posting a spoiler free review on my YouTube channel to coincide with the release date of October 4, 2016.

In late October, I will also be posting a spoiler review so that I can talk about many of the details I particularly liked about this book.

Links for more information

https://www.amazon.com/Black-Flowers-White-Yvonne-Ventresca/dp/1510709886

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/317481.Yvonne_Ventresca

BookTubeAThon 2016

Last year I discovered the wonderful world of BookTube a few months before one of it’s biggest events – a Read-A-Thon, called BookTube-A-Thon! It is a week long event with reading and video challenges. This year there are even going to be some challenges for Instagram! In 2015, I watched all the videos and it really prompted me to move forward with my desire to join the online book community. I’m very happy to announce that this year, I will be able to participate with all of the other wonderful booktubers. Take a look at my TBR video for the event.

Community Among Potterheads

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Reading has always been a very solitary experience for me. Being of an introverted nature and growing up in a rural, West Virginia town, I feel very fortunate to have lived only a block away from the library. As such, many of my childhood memories are of me perusing the shelves, hoping to discover my next great adventure. I’m not exactly sure when I realized that not everyone was as enamored with the act of reading as I was, but sometime during my teenage life, I learned to keep silent about my enthusiasm. The thing I struggled with the most was that even among my fellow readers, I didn’t seem to be able to connect on specific books. Any early fan of classics, my peers often considered my reading taste to be boring, which was disappointing because I wanted to share my beloved stories with others.

Fast forward to my adulthood and the release of the Harry Potter books. It was right after the release of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, when a friend brought them to my attention. “I don’t know,” I replied, “You know I don’t really have any interest in fantasy.” Her response was simple: “These books are for everyone.” And she was right – five days later, and all four novels under my belt, I was a truly converted fanatic. One of the best parts of this new obsession was that I wasn’t alone in it. Everywhere I turned, I found other readers, of all ages, desperate to discuss their enjoyment with others. In many ways, as a reader, this was the first time I had ever felt really seen by my peers. I couldn’t get over what a huge community I had found simply by stepping outside of my comfort zone. Even this, however, wasn’t enough to prepare me for how completely the sense of community would impact my life.

As it would turn out, I ended up living almost two thousand miles from home because of Harry Potter. But, let me start at the beginning. While I was working in a residence hall at my local University, I was struggling to carry my laundry back to my room after an ankle injury. My friend, and the housing director at the time, asked another student if he would help me. He agreed, although I’m sure it was reluctantly, because we had been involved in a few disagreements over the course of the school year. Upon entering my room, however, his whole demeanor changed as he noticed my Harry Potter display on the top of my bookcases. Three hours later he left my room and we were on the road to becoming the very best of friends. The only thread we had in common, was our love for the Wizarding World, but that was enough for us to build on, each of us trusting the other’s tastes in books, movies, and general activities. After graduation, I even accompanied him across country when he received a pretty awesome job offer. I give all of the credit to reading the Harry Potter books. We never would have had a real conversation otherwise.

So, here I am, a girl from small town West Virginia, living in the big city of Phoenix. During my two years here, I’ve made many new connections based on the novels. For starters, the majority of my BookTube, Twitter, and Instagram contacts were made because of a mutual love for the Harry Potter books. Also, one of the most memorable days I’ve had at my job was when a co-worker (and co-fangirl) and I mourned the death of Alan Rickman together.  I’ve also never have a week commuting to work where I haven’t ended up having a conversation with a stranger over The Boy Who Lived.

So to all the skeptics out there – think I’m exaggerating? That’s fine, I challenge you to go to any public place and pull out a paperback copy of any of the Harry Potter novels. It won’t take long for you to see what I mean. I guarantee you’ll make a new friend. Why is this? Because the world of Harry Potter is no longer simply a series of books. Or a movie franchise. Harry Potter is an experience. It’s a movement. It’s a unifying thread in a world where there is so much division. Perhaps it is these divisions that lure us into the books, encourage us to seek out a Hogwarts, to look for a Dumbledore that would lead us, and to show us that we can unite despite our differences. In a world with magic, even one with a Voldemort, there is still an abundance of hope. We often need this Wizarding World to remind us to fight for our own.

In closing, I know my story is not unique. Harry Potter has affected readers of all ages. All classes. All races. All religions. All nationalities. We are a diverse community. We are passionate and friendly and welcoming; even when we have nothing else in common with one another but our love for the Wizarding World. If J.K. Rowling never accomplishes anything else, she should be recognized for giving us that – the precious gift of community, in an otherwise solitary world.

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I’m now on BookTube!

I’m not sure if I mentioned in my earlier posts that the inspiration to start this blog was greatly supported by my viewing of BookTube videos. Because of this, I have recently launched my own channel which I will use in conjunction with this page in exploring my passion for reading. I have been wanting to do this for a long time, but kept putting it off. I was initially convinced that I needed to learn how to film and edit videos first, as well as how to master the use of social media before I could ever blog or vlog. Is the word vlog still even used? Anyway – I was wasting time on wanting things to be perfect, when really, all I want is to be IN the book world, even if imperfectly. Instead I will be learning as I go so that I don’t miss out on any of the fun! So here goes: I will link each new video here in case anyone would like to check them out.