Friday, February 28, 2014

Review: The Valley of Amazement by Amy Tan

I innocently stumbled across an Amy Tan novel, The Joy Luck Club, as a young bookseller, an epic for me back then. Handed this long awaited tome, I immediately cleared my schedule and tore into it. Now by ‘tore into it’ I mean merely that while I felt like I was ferociously reading big gulps of the book Amy Tan was politely asking me to slow down; a stern teacher in the great scheme of things, she really sets the pace for you – like it or not.

This gorgeous novel slips so eloquently into Amy Tan’s repertoire of family epics. Spanning almost five decades, we follow the live of Violet Minturn. Young, naive and devilishly spoilt as a child, she grows up running through the courtyards of a very upmarket courtesan house run by her mother, Lucia.

When an old trickster lover turns up promising Lucia to help her find her lost son, Teddy, she quickly sells the courtesan house 'The Hidden Jade Path', and packs up their lives to head to San Francisco, only to discover that Violet’s birth certificate is missing. An astute promise from Lucia’s lover leaves Lucia on a boat to San Francisco and Violet sold as a virgin courtesan.

It’s a sluggish read up till this point, almost had me giving up and admitting defeat. However, the wait was worth it! Tan begins to stretch her legs in the art of torment; she slowly sets free her protagonist, be it with emotions, or the yearning of the heart, or even the simple action of friendship. As the plot begins to move along, you sorely believe Violet truly deserves all she naively wishes for – love as a young courtesan, which seems highly unlikely, but yet Tan makes it so.

A genie for fiction, Tan weaves together fate, love and loss poor Violet is faced with more torment than any other protagonist I have ever encountered. Perhaps this is why I fell so easily in love with her, rooted for her, berated her stupid decisions and rejoiced in her triumphs. Secrets, history, family and a setting so unique, it seems all could helplessly relent to such a mere 600 pages.

Me having fun with the cover...

A slow start is my only cross against this beautiful story, call it impatience or indulgence of word, but once the story digs its heels in Tan shows more than you could have ever thought to have discovered. Amy Tan has the extraordinary talent of sweeping a reader up into a world far from the one in which we habit.

This is one to pick up next, one to keep holding on to with that last sip of tea...

The Valley of Amazement by Amy Tan features on this month’s Exclusive Books Recommends for February.

Friday, February 21, 2014

More Friday Folly: 11 Bookshelves...

It's Friday, and I for one am happy to see the end of this week. The weather has made me grumpy, too hot, and all I want is to get lost in a book... can I get an AMEN? *echo*.

So for those who are counting down the hours till the evitable book-reading-hole we call the weekend, this week's folly is all about book storage. I found this article on Huffington Post, it is old and forgive me for sharing old news, but I still love it anyway...


Big Flower

Under the Stairs



The Music Note

The Ladder

The Pipes

The Tree

The Branch

Happy Friday All

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Review: City of Dark Magic by Magnus Flyte

Title: City of Dark Magic
Author: Magnus Flyte
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Penguin

There is a line in the author bio of this book: The Manuscript of the book you are about to read arrived in the mail one day at Penguin headquarters in New York with no cover letter. 

Now I know curiosity killed the cat, but my interest piqued immediately; having spent a good year behind a desk looking for a gem like this to sweep across my lap. So I promised life and limb to Exclusive Books who so generously pulled strings at Penguin Head office.

This is a stringer of a novel. It claims fantasy, from its jacket, eccentric plot line and mysterious author. The story starts out as every fantasy novel should, a prologue steeped in intrigue and a character that seems too naïve to be true.

We meet our protagonist Sarah Weston, a music student – specialty Beethoven. She is outstandingly intelligent, bimbo-style beautiful and has a heart-breaking past of a dead-parent and poverty. Sarah has climbed her way into the mind of her professor – intellectually, so clean your minds people.

Her dreams come true when she receives a golden-platter-offer to catalogue Beethoven’s manuscripts in Prague. A restoration project headed up by a wealthy family. Now the plot truly thickens, as Sarah finds out that her beloved professor has killed himself, and is his replacement.

Epic fantasy of proportions, the writing is light and somewhat easy. I even had it pinned as Young Adult; well that was until Sarah lures an unsuspecting male into a bathroom stall – and they weren’t just washing their hands, if you know what I mean.

Book 2: City of Lost Dreams by Magnus Flyte

That aside, this is a healthy read – it’s no Neil Gaiman, or Robert Jordan, and I have at least three fantasy novels that could slowly outdo this one, but I kept reading? So surely that means something. It is an easy, bite-size chuck to ease the reading slumps, set in Prague! So sit back and enjoy, and if you are salivating for more you can check out the next instalment City of Lost Dreams.

If you want to find out more about Magnus Flyte, you can on his website.

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