I started reading this book and within the first four pages I knew I would be driven to distraction trying to finish it as quickly as possible. This is the sort of book that eclipses anything else you may be doing or should be doing. Do not be fooled into thinking you will be able to put it down, you won’t. The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh is the sort of book that will have a lasting impact on anyone who reads it. This is definitely on my top ten list for 2011.
The Language of Flowers is Victoria Jones’ story. Orphaned as a small child she has spent the majority of her life being shuffled between institutions and foster homes. This upbringing has born in Victoria many fears, the main being a mistrust of anyone and anything. Unable to get close to anyone she communicates in the language of flowers. Honeysuckle for devotion, azaleas for passion and red roses for love. Using this strange and ancient language she conveys her feelings to those around her never knowing if she is understood or not.
Now eighteen years old Victoria has been kicked out of the system and is finally facing the world on her own. Alone, afraid and with nowhere to go, Victoria takes up residence in a public park. She plants a small garden of her own within the park and begins to attempt to make her way in the world. Looking for work she comes across a local florist and asks for any work the florist may have for her. So begins the next chapter in Victoria’s life.
She thrives on the thrill of matching customers with the perfect flower to match their needs and it is this new beginning that will bring her to meet the person that could change everything. A mysterious flower vendor working at the market place, a man who will make her face the demons of her past and finally get her to ask herself the questions she has run from for so long.
The story switches from stories of Victoria’s past to the present. Back and forth as the mystery of her life unravels and the two parts of the story become one. Take the journey with Victoria, and sit alongside her as she discovers insights about herself and her life she had never considered.
Richly woven, dark, menacing and oftentimes heartbreaking this is a novel of redemption, love, loss and the beautiful language of flowers. A truly beautiful literary novel, this is a book to get lost in. I did not want this book to end and I cannot recommend it enough. Make sure you add this to your “to be read” pile.
– Courtney for TLC Books
It’s National Bookshop Day on Saturday!!
On August 20, booksellers around the country will act like little kids who have had too much red cordial, happily buzzing around with a sense of pride and elation that their stores are being recognised for being an important part of our culture and our communities.
As the owner of a bookstore, I can tell you we don’t do this for the money! All of the booksellers and owners I have come across are passionate about reading, learning, literacy and the communities they dwell in. They also tend to be a little quirky with a tendency towards OCD, but that’s another post altogether.
Jon Page of Pages & Pages Booksellers put it well when he said:
“While reading is generally a solitary activity it is also a social one. Readers love to share their thoughts on books and the books themselves with friends and family. So while we often read by ourselves we want to share our reading experience with others. The bookshop is essential to this sharing process.”
I love the conversations that I get into with customers about all sorts of different genres and writing styles. On any given day I have numerous conversations with passionate readers about what they have just read, what they will read next and what they are looking forward to. This morning alone I have:
- Helped one customer to find two books on explaining IVF to children, and where they came from.
- Chose two books as presents for a grandma visiting her grandchildren in Scotland, both Australian stories by Australian authors.
- Talked to an avid crime reader about branching out from Scandinavian Crime and trying Before I Go To Sleep by S.J. Watson
- Sourced a book on a tricky relationship situation for a customer
- Talked to two authors about upcoming books
- Found the perfect distraction for a pirate obsessed child at home with the flu
- Discussed and sourced books for a customer doing a paper on ‘People and Place’ at university.
All of these discussions and books found for people represent the service that booksellers do all the time, because they love books. That is also why we organise book groups and events and story time for children, because reading is as essential to us as food, water and oxygen.
Booksellers also form a conduit between the author and the reader. We are very privileged to be able to meet authors and get a glimpse into why and how they write, which we then share with our customers. Occasionally we even get to have those authors in the store to meet their readers, which is always a thrill.
This is why National Bookshop Day is so exciting for us, everyone will be reminded of the place around the corner that isn’t just a store selling books, it is in fact a doorway to new worlds, new learning, an escape from the everyday or a journey, where you can meet like minded people who share the same passion for reading and get encouragement and advice to read new books.
As author of Loathing Lola, William Kostakis so eloquently put it:
“There’s more to a bookstore than simply selling books. Thanks to the RedGroup collapse, all anybody wants to talk about is the fact that bookstores are dying. Well, maybe places where they just sell books are dying, but bookstores that are active parts of the community; connecting readers with books, authors and each other… they’re thriving. There are 1000 things that bookshops like TLC can do for you that Amazon can’t, you simply have to step inside and ask.”
I look forward to wishing everyone a happy National Bookshop Day!
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Tanya Caunce for TLC Books
So many people ask me about how I choose books for the shop I thought I would share with you the top secrets of the trade, passed down from bookseller to bookseller via an ancient ritual.
Each month I literally go through hundreds of books from many publishers and decide what to order for the upcoming months. Did you catch that? Hundreds of books. And on big months, I would say thousands when you look at October lists (pre-Christmas) and dealing with over 20 publishers. Can you imagine, as a bibliophile, how you have to rein in the urge to buy it all? I seriously feel like cackling “mine, mine, mine, they will all be mine!” but I refrain and act professionally when all I want to be is a kid in a candy store.
So the secrets? There are none. There is not even a specific equation for choosing the books we sell but there are some important factors. Let me elucidate:
Is it a good book?
Yes, I know this seems really basic, but you’d be surprised. Every book I stock doesn’t have to rock my world or change my view of society, but I have a preference for well written and well crafted novels containing characters you can relate to. Believe me, there are many books out there that don’t have these qualities but yet they crowd publisher lists
We, my staff and I, read a lot of what we stock about 3-4 months prior to release, the publishers issue reading copies and it really helps us sort the wheat from the chaff so to speak. I love both non-fiction and the more literary style novels, Courtney loves crime, fantasy and fiction, Laura loves children’s books, historical fiction and general fiction and Neek is the fantasy and young adult queen.
If we don’t read the whole book, we often get a sample chapter to see the writing style and get a grasp of the content. This makes a lot of our ordering decisions for us. If the author is really well established we generally rely on their reputation. Having said that – there are a few established authors I don’t order in, as their writing has turned woeful and I can’t honestly recommend them. Patricia Cornwell, I’m looking at you.
Quite often I or a member of staff will champion a book, basically, read it and fall in love with it and recommend it to everyone we know – because we just want to share its sheer awesomeness. I love this, because it means we’ve found a great book and we get to have other people discover it too. It’s a bookseller’s biggest thrill and I order bucket loads of those books when we find them.
Who is it for?
One of the advantages of being an independent bookstore is that we have our own community of readers. Quite often I will order in a book because I am specifically thinking of particular customers when I order in a title; often along the lines of “Oh, she’s doing a degree in anthropology, she will love this” or “wow, he has been looking for something on this, it’s all about wolves in their natural habitat”. You get the gist.
To be perfectly honest, it’s like I am picking out birthday presents for customers every month, making sure that everyone will find something they love on the shelf. Which is really fun.
Seriously, really fun.
Yep, I’m going to say it. A book can be amazing and wonderful or shoot rainbows from its pages but if the cover is really bad (I’ve seen some shockers) then I won’t order in as many. So really, this is a quantity decision rather than a “will I get it” decision.
As much as people protest that it is shallow to contemplate a cover in a book buying decision, it really isn’t. Many people won’t give a book as much of a chance if the cover doesn’t reflect what is described through the blurb on the back. The cover will attract the wrong people who will read the blurb and feel a disconnection with the book already. Game over.
Does it fit in with the shop?
I have seen some great business books, fabulous sport books and a variety of amazing design books. But we do not have a place for them. I will order on customer request, and will mention those books to particular people but we have a limited space and we simply don’t have enough demand for some books.
Outlay – do I have enough money to put it on the shelf?
I would love to order some more of the quirkier and beautiful design books as well, but at $200+ a pop that is a lot of money to be tied up sitting on a shelf for the off chance. So we keep it to a restrained amount.
Same as I would love to have a range of deluxe edition leather bound volumes. But then I would have to cut back elsewhere, so for now, those will wait.
Being in a business, I have to watch where my budget is spent and as I don’t have a wealthy benefactor or rich silent partner (I am currently seeking candidates for these positions, applications are open) I have to stick to that damn budget or go broke spectacularly.
Things that do not factor in:
The publisher offers a free bag/hat/steak knives with the book. If the book isn’t worth reading, then no amount of free stuff is going to help.
“Love this book or your money back!”
“We guarantee this book!”
“This book will do the dishes for you!”
All well and good, and to be fair, the promise is usually right – it is quite often a good book, but if it isn’t, it won’t be on my shelf. There would be nothing worse for someone to read a bad book and then have to go online to ask for their money back. That’s why booksellers are here – so we can help people make the right choice on what to read in the first place.
Only having what I want to read
Let me assure you – this is NOT the case. I will happily go on for the rest of my life without reading about composting, knitting or what really went on in the Korean War. Other people DO want to read about these things (I know, hey?) so I supply a selection that I know to be well researched and well written.
So that’s about it.
I hope you have enjoyed that little foray into what I do on a constant basis for my little bookstore. It’s a never ending task which I am happy to say, I love to bits, even if it can get overwhelming at times. I mostly get it right but can still get it wrong… apparently I’m not perfect. Who knew?
Tanya – TLC Books