Friday, August 29, 2014

The Cephalopod Coffeehouse Blog Hop


Welcome to  The Cephalopod Coffeehouse, an online gathering of bloggers who love books that is hosted montlhy by The Armchair Squid. If you're interested, please sign on to the link list at the end of this post.

The idea is simple: on the last Friday of each month, post about the best book you've finished over the past month while visiting other bloggers doing the same.  In this way, we'll all have the opportunity to share our thoughts with other enthusiastic readers.  Please join us by signing up below.

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A month ago, I had it in my head to read Goldfinch, till I passed my debit card around to all the curriculum vendors and realized I needed to get on the library list, instead of purchasing it. Apparently, it takes an increasingly alarming amount of money to provide for the needs of the homeschooled high school kid. Off to the library I go - after getting my name on the list for this Pulitzer prize winner, the kindly librarian informs me that I am the prime spot of #64. Crimeny.

I may have been a bit dejected, but never hopeless in a library! There's too many things I'm interested in.  I decided to take a gander at the new book section. Cook books...no...humor...I'll be the judge of that...politics...barf... 

And there it was, not even hiding - but in plain site. How had I missed it on my last trip? One of my favorite authors had a relatively new book out (2013) that had snuck under my Cherdar (i.e., Cherdo radar). It was like Christmas came early when I caught a glimpse of The Valley of Amazement by Amy Tan. 

Amy may have a more loyal fan, who wouldn't miss the arrival of a new book due to her uncontrolled menopausal flakiness, but she doesn't have a more appreciative one! I love all her books and I've read every last one, beginning with The Joy Luck Club.


The Valley of Amazement begins in China, but covers a period of forty plus years as Tam weaves back and forth in the lives of Violet Minturn and her mother, Lulu Mimi,  "the only white woman who owned a first-class courtesan house in Shanghai."  

It's 1905, with a young Violet's life shaped by her role as the only daughter of Lulu, the owner of the Hidden Jade Path, a courtesan house that caters to Chinese and Westerners alike. Violet admires her mother's beauty and business sense, but longs to be the center of her attention. Bitterness at imagined slights starts to grow in Violet's heart. Violet has a relatively safe existence among the courtesans, doting on her cat, Carlotta, and attending school. She prides herself on being American, just like her mother, Lulu.

But times are changing with the abdication of the Empress and political upheaval. In the midst of it all, a mysterious handsome Chinese man arrives and Violet learns through her eavesdropping that the man is her father, Lu Shang, and she has a brother far away in California. Violet is shocked to learn she is half Chinese and as tension rises in the Hidden Jade Path, she is taunted by the courtesans about her mixed heritage. Foreigners are looked on with suspicion now.

Lulu realizes it is not safe, and enlists the help of a handsome, manipulative con man named Fairweather. When Fairweather promises he can produce two tickets to America and safety, Lulu and Violet pack up and depart. The catch: Violet must pose as the man's daughter, Lulu is told. They cannot get a copy of her birth certificate, and there is no other way to get her out of the country. As Lulu boards the ship to America, thinking her daughter is safe in another cabin, Violet is whisked away to a lesser courtesan house as their new "virgin courtesan." Fairweather has betrayed them by selling Violet to settle his debts. 

Reunited with a former Hidden Jade Palace courtesan, Magic Cloud, Violet eventually resigns herself to her new existence, and allows Magic Cloud to mentor her. She learns her mother has been told she is dead and all the odds are stacked against her.

Tan tells Violet's story in vivid detail and jumps back to the early days of Lulu's relationship with Lu Shang and then back to the adult Violet, a mother herself. You can see the parallels of love-gone-wrong in Violet's and Lulu's lives, as well as the spirit and drive of both women who do what they must to survive despite their circumstances.

Amy Tan should work for the CIA; her research (or team of researchers) is top notch. With those historical details in hand, she has created a rich, gorgeously woven tale that allows the reader to walk in the footsteps of the main characters of Violet and Lulu. It gets my highest recommendation.


PS: And now, I'm only #32 on the list for Goldfinch.


Don't forget to sign up for the next blog hop! (Thanks, Squidly!)


27 comments:

  1. Hello, dear Cherdo! Shady here... your Fairweather friend.

    Mrs. Shady and I both love Amy Tan and recently watched (for the third time) the film adaptation of The Joy Luck Club. Your review of The Valley of Amazement sparked my interest and I will let Mrs. Shady know about it.

    I wish you a safe and happy weekend, dear friend Cherdo!

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    1. No, you don't want to be my Fairweather friend! He was a rat! You want to be the hero...or the cat (friendly, always around, everybody likes it).

      The movie adaptation of The Joy Luck Club was great. I'm old school; I like to read the book! But that one was great.

      Please have a wonderful weekend, be safe, and we'll yack soon, dear SDK (and once again, I didn't put my comment in the right place. ARGH!)

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    1. Once again I know what you wrote here, Cherdo. (I read it before it was deleted.) To answer your question, YES, I have once again been invited to submit a guest post on the blog of my Australian friend Allie-Millie. It will be published tomorrow and I will post an announcement and link to it on my blog. If you have time I hope you will visit Allie-Millie's blog and read my true Shady Dell story. Then on Sunday I will publish Part 4 of HTWWF on SDMM.

      Thank you, dear friend Cherdo, and have a wonderful weekend!

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    2. Is there ANY doubt in your mind that I would go to your guest post? Shady, Shady, Shady... Of course, I'll check them both out!

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  3. a historical novel, right? The plot looks really well planned out. Good premise too.

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    1. I love the way she writes; it really pulls you in.

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  4. I've never read anything by Amy Tan, but it sounds like it would be a very enriching experience.

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    1. If you've never read Amy Tan, you definitely need to start with The Joy Luck Club. I loved that book.

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  5. I have this on my to-read list, as I generally like Tan, though she's a bit hit-or-miss. The Asian courtesan thing is beginning to grate on me slightly though. It seems like such a trope by this point, you know?

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    1. It seems like these "tropes" as you put it are cyclic, or at least that is my opinion...which is free, by the way, ha ha.

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  6. I wrote a brilliant comment about how much I love Amy Tan. I clicked on Publish. I watched my comment disappear. YOU CAN'T KILL ME OFF, BLOGGER. I'll get you yet, my pretty.

    Love,
    Janie

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    1. ...you stay away from my little dog, Janie!

      Maybe your computer can't upload brilliance. The other one that disappeared was brilliant, too. There is a trend here and I'm thinking you need for brilliance RAM, but I am not a professional.

      Love, Cherdo

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  7. This blog hop sounds great! Thanks for posting. I like your blog, by the way. I've never heard of Poo Dough before. You learn something every day. ;o) lol

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    1. Thanks, PlanetKimberly! I love your blog's name! And I would hate for both of us to go through life without Poo-Dough (insert the complimentary snark, as your heart sees fit). Come back and see me!

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  8. It's been a long time since I've read an Amy Tan novel. I guess it's time to pick her up again.

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  9. I also haven't read Amy Tan in a while. Back in the late '90s, I read a whole bunch of books about China in a row: Amy Tan, Wild Swans, etc. I don't think I've read a single one since. Maybe I should get on that.

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  10. I haven't read any Amy Tan books, but maybe it's time for me to change that. Thanks for the nudge!

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    1. Happy to nudge any time! Still loving your blog.

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  11. Amy Tan sounds like an author to put on my TBR list. Thank you for the recommendation.

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  12. Let me know if you get around to it - I'd love someone else's opinion. Thanks for stopping by, Sally!

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  13. I enjoyed your review, Cherdo. (Smiled at the 'politics ... barf.' So Cherds.) I've never read any of Amy Tan's novesl and while I love impeccably-researched historicals (who doesn't love being convincingly transported to another time?) I think the being sold to settle a stranger's debts bit (and everything Violet would encounter as a result) wouldn't really be this comedy-loving, soaring-spirit girl's cup o' tea.

    Like I said, I did like reading your review, though.

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  14. I know I should be diving into Amy Tan with open arms, and yet I can't seem to do it! I always feel like I'm gonna get depressed and have a book hangover...which is why I don't go for it. I resolve to read one in the next year.
    Is this the one you'd recommend? Or JOY LUCK CLUB?
    Thanks!
    Veronica

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  15. i did read the joy luck club and loved it. haven't had much of a chance to read her other works thou

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Thanks for your personal yada, yada, yada,
Love, Cherdo