Title What the Flower Says of Death
Author Danielle Koste
Genre Romance, Fantasy, Magical Realism
Page Length 330
Publication Date 25 Sept 2018
Publisher Self Published
Read Date Aug 2018
Recommended Yes – Golden Pip!
Violet Holt has already met Death once.
After a failed suicide attempt, she finds herself dumped by her callous mother on the doorstep of her family’s desolate oceanside estate. With only the company of her estranged grandmother, comatose grandfather, and the monsters in her head, at least there was no one to interfere with her plans to try again on her eighteenth birthday.
No one, except maybe Jack: a skeleton of a boy who says he’s there to rake her grandmother’s leaves, yet seems more experienced at stalking than grounds-keeping. She knows he’s keeping a secret behind his gentle smiles and aloofness, but it’s difficult for Violet to be put off by his untimely thin-air appearances when figuring out the mystery of his true identity makes for such a good distraction.
Violet’s trauma is deeper than the wound on her wrist though, and it cannot be simply whisked away in a whirlwind of guessing games and pleasant gestures. She struggles to reconnect with her grandmother, find forgiveness for her mother, and closure with her grandfather’s dire condition, all while battling the strain of it all on her family. Even with a flicker of something hopeful blossoming within herself, Violet knows her birthday plans must be inevitable.
Death wouldn’t be there for her if it wasn’t.
I received a copy of this from the author, Danielle Koste. My thanks to the Danielle for this opportunity. These are my honest thoughts of the book.
I am part of the blog tour for this book. Be sure to check out the other fantastic bloggers taking part!
So, before I get into this, I think it’s important to make a small content warning. If you have read the synopsis, this will already be clear, but it’s worth stating it again just in case. A heavy aspect of this story is that Violet is suicidal. The story starts shortly after she has had a failed suicide attempt, and she is sure she won’t fail the second time around. The story is told from her POV, so we experience the moments when she is brutally honest about her thoughts on dying. I am a man that is living after 2 failed suicide attempts. So this story hit home and struck a raw nerve. But it wasn’t uncomfortable or distressing in any way, quite the opposite, and we’ll get in to why. Some points in this review openly discuss suicide, suicidal thoughts and methods of suicide.
This is a wonderful story that explores themes of love, loss, and forgiveness. It has an excellent mental health rep focussed on depression, anxiety and suicide. The main characters are very real and relatable. I fell in love with Jack, and I think most people will. The supporting characters play their role very well. Koste doesn’t fall into the trap of adding people in a story for the sake of it. Each character plays a part and is there to progress the story forward.
There is a lovely comfy feel to this, but with moments of heartbreaking sharpness. The contrast and dynamics of the story play out really well. The story is slow and settled where it needs to be, and then builds tension where necessary in order to stop the reader getting bored or too comfortable.
Overall, I absolutely loved this. The story deals with deep, real, ugly situations without ever becoming trivial and offensive. If you want to read an easy heartwarming coming of age story of love and loss, then this can fill that need. But if you are looking for something a little more; a story of human nature, love, anger, forgiveness and life, with important and thought provoking themes, then this can also do that. It’s a story that gives back the more you put in to it. This was definitely one of my favourite reads of the year. An author to watch. Even greater things are coming from Danielle, mark my words. Also, that ending… well, let’s not spoil anything, but I am an emotional mess right now! I cried so much! It’s great!
Emotional | Courageous | Bittersweet
– The mental health rep. Excellent positive and honest representation of anxiety and depression.
– Jack and everything about him. He’s so mysterious. There’s so much about him that fascinates me.
– Violet. More on Violet down below.
– The setting. It’s a claustrophobic setting, but creates an intimate feeling that mirrors the story well.
– The overall mood. It’s gentle in most areas, with a cozy feeling to it. But then there are moments of sharp contrast that strike right to the heart. The dynamics are wonderful.
– Cover love. Look at it. Put your eyes to it. Bask in its glory.
– Title love. I think sometimes the art of crafting a good title can go unnoticed. I like this title, it’s a good, clever title.
– Lots of kissing and intimate touching. Ew.
Grab a cup of tea and settle in folks, I have a lot to say about this book.
A couple months back I stumbled across PULSE, Danielle Koste’s debut novel, and really liked it. Because of that, I was looking forward to reading her follow up, What the Flower Says of Death. So when Danielle contacted me asking if I would like to be part of the blog tour, I jumped at the opportunity! I totes played it cool though and definitely didn’t come across as a weird nerd freaking out… I’m sure. I’m way too cool and suave for that sort of thing.
HOLY SHIT!! I FUCKING LOVED THIS!! OH MY GODS!! I WAS NOT READY!! I CRIED SO FUCKING MUCH!! I HAVE NEVER CRIED SO MUCH AT A BOOK!! MY POOR HEART!! SO. FUCKING. GOOD!! OK, I’m calm. I just needed to get that out of the way. Going in to this, based on the synopsis, I was expecting a heartwarming, coming of age story in a dark, melancholic setting. And we do have that, but we get something much more significant and important.
I fell in love with Violet immediately. I found Violet to be a highly relatable character, in part because we share a lot of similarities. She is a shy introvert and lives in her own head a lot. She is living after a failed suicide attempt and is battling depression and anxiety on a daily basis. She has a mother that is toxic and does more harm than good. I’ve never fallen in love with a brooding, smoking hot, fella though. But, who knows what the future holds, right?!
It would have been easy to have Violet as a vulnerable, delicate young woman that falls apart at the slightest thing, particularly with all that she is going through. But Koste doesn’t do that. There is much more to Violet than her ‘problems’. She has a kind heart. She’s really smart, creative, and insightful. I really like her feisty ways, and her occasional adorkable mistakes. She unintentionally sabotages situations due to her anxiety, and then gets angry at herself because of it. She’s a character that is easy to get behind and feel invested in.
Straight away, we get thrown in to a world that discusses suicide. Koste does an amazing job of capturing what it is like to live while suicidal. In my experience, often (not always), suicidal thoughts or ‘tendencies’ are misunderstood by those who haven’t felt them. Even when they are taken serious, they are considered to be a way of escaping something else. The act of suicide is thought of as a push. I.e. Person A is in a crisis in life and therefore considers suicide as a way to escape that crisis – they are being pushed into committing suicide as a means to an end. That can sometimes be the case, but quite often, suicide is a pull, and not a push. It can start as a push, but often it stops being a feeling of escaping something negative in our lives, and instead the desire to experience death becomes overwhelming. It creeps in to our lives, and we think about it constantly. Death becomes attractive.
Violet has moments where she thinks about different ways to kill herself based on what is around her at the time. This is a common, and very real situation that suicidal people experience all day, every day. It’s not unusual to fantasise about different ways to die in that moment as we’re going through our everyday lives. Violet also feels ashamed and guilty about her attempt. She hates the after effects and what remains after as a constant reminder of failing. Again, this is something very real. It was really refreshing to have suicidal thoughts presented in this way. I feel that when suicide is explored in fiction, it often becomes watered down, or superficial out of a fear to show it in all its ugly ways. Either that, or it becomes preachy, and from a place of hatred.
This book breaks the mould. It explores suicide without preaching, or holding back. It’s brave, bold, and honest but without becoming too powerful or overbearing. And therefore, this becomes a really positive representation of mental health in fiction. Stories like this will help people. Not only those going through the same thing, or recovering from it, but it is a good example of how we can break the mental health stigma by normalising these topics and discussions.
Although this book confronts controversial and taboo topics without apology, it manages to do so whilst remaining sensitive and nonjudgmental to those who have been in, or may still be in, the same situation. Never did I read something and thought that it was callous or done purely for shock value. Koste gained a lot of respect from me for doing this so well. Everything in this, is there for a reason, it plays into a bigger part of the story.
My thoughts slipped out, my lips loose with him. “It’s a little strange, to look up there and see all those stars and realize how insignificant you are. How small and pointless your life is in comparison to the grand things out there.”
I heard him sigh sadly, and I turned, seeking an explanation. He closed his eyes for a moment, and when he opened them, I could see the stars shining in the swirling gray.
“You’re looking at it all wrong. You can’t compare your individual self to the whole of something; you’ll always fall short. You’re not insignificant. By that logic, each star is insignificant, but take them away, and the sky is just an endless emptiness.”
This quote is taken from an eARC version of this book and is subject to change in the final version.
And so what of the story? I’m aware that you’ve just read a rather lengthy ramble there about this and I haven’t really discussed the usual plot, characters, writing style etc. Well, be patient, my friend. For all good things come to those in good time… That time is now.
The descriptive writing style we get from Koste is right up my street. I liked her style in PULSE, and I continued to like it in this. We get very clear descriptions of what is happening, but with enough character quirks or actions to keep the story feeling real and interesting. On a couple of occasions I felt things were unnecessarily over-described. I.e. We are reminded that Jack’s eyes are grey almost every single time they are mentioned – they are not just eyes, they are grey eyes. But I am being incredibly super picky with that.
I’ve spoken enough about Violet above, but we have a joint MC in Jack. Or to give him his full name, Jack De’Morte. Cheesiest. And. Best. Name. Ever. Think about it… THINK ABOUT IT! Jack is such a fucking sweetheart. A lad full of deference and kindness. Oh my gods I would have married him on the spot at several parts if I was Violet. Well, I wouldn’t because he wouldn’t consent to a marriage. He’s dark and mysterious, yet wonderfully sensitive and empathetic. He’s often cryptic and has a lot of mystery attached to him. And although I think the reader will understand why he’s like that from pretty early on, Violet doesn’t get this. She becomes frustrated with him at one point. But that doesn’t make Violet dumb or anything, it works perfect in the context of the story. I try not to compare books from the same author if they are separate stories, but it was difficult to not spot that there are a number of similarities between Jack and Lyall from PULSE. But that doesn’t mean they are carbon copies, or the same character – far from it. They are individual characters, just with a number of similarities. Lyall was my favourite character from PULSE, and Jack is my favourite from WtFSoD.
There is a small number of supporting characters. I really liked that. Violet’s grandmother is charming, heart warming and comforting. Like a hot hearty soup on a winter’s day. Violet’s mother is a bitch. There is no getting around it. Her selfish behaviour is harmful to Violet and often leaves her feeling ashamed to simply exist. I hated her mother, but I think I was supposed to! I did have a small dislike of how her character developed and how things ended with her. I won’t say much because I don’t want to spoil anything. But remember folks, there is no shame in walking away from family members that cause you harm. There is no unconditional duty on you to provide loyalty or respect to your parents.
The plot is perfectly paced for my liking. It’s slow where it needs to be and picks up in enough places to ensure we have a dynamic story that kept me engaged. I couldn’t get enough of this book. Normally, it can take me anywhere up to a few weeks to finish a book of this size (I know right, so slow!), but I devoured this in just a couple of sessions. It still took me a few days to finish it, but that was because I had a lot of work come in all at once. If it wasn’t for that pesky work, I could have read this in a day or so. Also, despite being a bit of a clean freak, my rooms must have been really dusty because something kept getting into my eyes and causing them to water which meant I had to take a few short breaks.
There is a beautiful love story here, and it was so well done that even my cold stone heart warmed to it. If you know me, you know that romance is not for me. But, I do understand that many people get an immense amount of joy and life satisfaction from romantic situations, both IRL and in fiction. Just because it isn’t for me personally, doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy seeing others find happiness in it. There is a lot of kissing in this, though. Ew. Yak. Bleurgh. I’mma be sick. I think I despise kissing more than any other sexy time thing. Sometimes I can handle seeing people kissing without it having too much of an affect. But this is written in first person and that made the whole situation a little too close for comfort. I really had to try and push through those moments and quickly get them out of the way asap. But that’s not a criticism on the story, it’s purely a personal preference. The kissing and other physical contact makes perfect sense for these characters and this story.
So, because I’ve now read two of Danielle’s novels, I am clearly an expert professor of her writing. That’s how this works, right?! I genuinely think PULSE is a fantastic, and very strong debut novel. There is a lot in there that showed Koste understands what makes a good story. With WtFSoD it is clear that she has taken that early potential and worked hard to polish those skills. Koste creates fascinating and relatable characters, but her skills really shine when creating scenes of tension.
Sick Stark segue skills activate!
Danielle doesn’t rely on action packed scenes to create moments of intrigue. Instead, she creates tension by putting the characters, and the reader, into a morally grey situation. Particularly in WtFSoD, there are scenes that played out in my minds eye where we have an established setting, and then I slowly started to zoom in on one or two characters. All unnecessary stimuli are removed until I am left with an intense, intimate scene of just the characters, their thoughts and speech, and no distractions. Then the tension starts to build, and it builds, and builds, and keeps going until it’s almost unbearable and I was screaming, “Oh my gods, no! Don’t do it!!” or “Oh my gods, just do it! and then we get really satisfying payoffs. They are masterclasses in tension building. Koste is an author to watch. Even greater things are coming from her, mark my words!
Danielle is amazing at writing complex and dynamic relationships. In WtFSoD, Danielle showed the cyclical nature of poor parenting. Violet’s grandmother had not been the best mother, and that failing showed with Violet’s mother but without it becoming too overpowering for the rest of the story. There are a lot of subtleties in the relationship between the three, and that kept me intellectually engaged.
Overall, this was one of my favourite reads of the year. Only my second Golden Pip of the year! The story deals with deep, real, ugly situations without ever becoming trivial and offensive. If you want to read an easy heartwarming coming of age story of love and loss, then this can fill that need. But if you are looking for something a little more; a story of human nature, love, anger, forgiveness and life, with important and thought provoking themes, then this can also do that. It’s a story that gives back the more you put in to it. Do yourself a favour, and do not let this pass you by. Also, that ending… well, let’s not spoil anything, but I am an emotional mess right now! I cried so much! It’s great!
Anyway, I’m off to start a new journal. Until next time, Peace and Love!
WAIT, THERE’S MORE!
There’s a competition attached to this book release there is. Enter the rafflecopter giveaway here for a chance to win a signed copy of What the Flower Says of Death, a signed copy of Pulse, matching bookmarks for each book, and a $25 amazon gift card. Better than chips!
Rafflecopter giveaway ends on the night of 15th September at midnight Eastern Time (meaning 00.00 on 16th September)