I hope you get a lot of books for Christmas! Or if you don't celebrate Christmas, I hope you have some good books to read today.
The Valley of Amazement
Every now and then, I forget how much I enjoy Amy Tan. This book helped me remember. The Valley of Amazement follows the intertwined lives of a mother and daughter: Lucia (sometimes Lulu) and and Violet. Lulu is a white woman from San Francisco who runs one of the top courtesan houses in Shanghai and is estranged from Violet's father, the Chinese painter she followed across the ocean while pregnant with Violet. Through a series of events somewhat out of her control, Lulu boards a ship back to San Francisco without Violet. Violet is sold to another courtesan house and begins training to live the life of a courtesan--a life with which she's familiar but never thought she'd follow. There were parts of the book that drug for me and were maybe a little too detail-oriented (it is not a quick read), but I really enjoyed it. Violet and Lulu do not live easy lives, nor do many of the other characters within this novel and it's easy to get drawn into their struggles and find yourself rooting for them (most of them).
The Apartment: A Novel
I think it was maybe not a great idea to follow a novel that spans forty years with a novel that spans one day. I loved this book in a sense (except that the author didn't use quotation marks and I know that's prose and acceptable and blah blah, but it bugs so much) because the plot line was intriguing. A man comes to an unnamed European city after working as a contractor in Iraq. Although it's just one day in his life, searching for an apartment, he flashes back routinely to Iraq in moments that are eye-opening. That said, I felt really disconnected to the character. I don't know if it was the style of writing or that I read it after a fairly long novel with massive character development or what, but I just couldn't bring myself to care about his day. I just wanted his day to end so I could put the book down.
The Beginning of Everything
At the end of his Junior year, Ezra Faulkner has it all: he's on the varsity tennis team, he's popular and he has a gorgeous girlfriend. Then one night leaving a party, he's hit by a car, his leg is shattered… and just like that, everything is gone. Ezra is forced to find his way back to his old best friend, an unpopular boy who is known for being the kid who once caught a decapitated head on a ride at Disney Land. Ezra joins the debate team, falls in love with a mysterious, troubled girl named Cassidy and struggles, really struggles, to find himself and discover who he is and where he fits in along the way. I loved this book, the characters and especially the ending.
I Am the Messenger
Does anyone remember the CBS show "Joan of Arcadia"? I loved that show. This book reminded me slightly of that. Ed is ordinary in every sense of the word. He's a 19 year old just drifting through life with an equally aimless group of friends, until one day he's in the midst of a bank robbery. Compelled by he doesn't know what, Ed picks up the gun dropped by the robber and apprehends him, causing him to become an ordinary hero. After this event, Ed begins receiving anonymous messages on playing cards. The messages all involve a person and it's up to Ed to figure out what he has to do to help this person--or maybe the people around them. Ed is pushed to find who is sending the cards, but also, to make the world around him a better place. I thought this book was lovely, though I know there was some criticism of the ending. I liked it. I had to read it twice, but once it sunk in, it worked for me. The whole idea of "ordinary Ed" making right in the world was beautiful and that sold this book for me.
What are you reading?