Amy Tan produces another amazing book

“The Valley of Amazement” by Amy Tan. Ecco, 2013. $29.99

I don’t know if there’s anyone better than Amy Tan at crossing cultures and continents without shredding a story line.

“The Valley of Amazement” spans generations as well, weaving a vivid, emotional tale of women torn asunder. Violet, the lead character, experiences a startling degree of loss, a thread that seems to run in the family.

Tan’s story delves into cultures foreign to most readers but never strays so far from universal themes that one gets lost.

By the time Violet and the other women are on the uphill climb, the reader is straining along with them.

With this book, Amy Tan continues her trend of books that are heart-wrenching without being cloying, exotic without being unfamiliar, and devastating without being gloomy. “The Valley of Amazement” is another winner.

Beth Colvin, bcolvin@theadvocate.com

“Forty Days Off Facebook: A Pivotal Journey” by Ryan Beale. Detroit Sparks, 2013. $14.99.

Just days after his divorce was finalized, author Ryan Beale had to cope with yet another tragedy, the suicide of his brother.

Resorting to reading Facebook status updates of friends and family as a method of ignoring his grief, Beale decided to reassess his relationships in the hopes of moving forward with his life.

He determined that if he removed himself from Facebook, his friends and family must physically reach out to him and redevelop those relationships without the barrier of a computer screen.

He must also face his grief head-on without the support of other’s lives to focus on.

He journals throughout the 40 days and addresses several issues in his book, such as addiction, family problems, mental illness and, of course, social media.

Beale’s accounts are not earth shattering, but the sense of hope, of trying to find love again and a sense of empowerment when all seems lost is evident in his writing and experiences.

Anna Guerra, Denham Springs

“What the Dog Knows: the Science and Wonder of Working Dogs” by Cat Warren. Simon & Schuster, 2013. $26.99

Playing to personal strength is the key to unshakable success. Cat Warren demonstrates one of life’s largest lessons in “What the Dog Knows: The Science and Wonder of Working Dogs.”

Born in a German shepherd litter of one, Solo’s boundless energy turned the Warren household into a coven of chaos and destruction until Warren awakened his purpose. She channeled his strengths to consume his energy with amazing diligence and patience, training him as a police K9.

This glimpse into the life, schooling and abilities of Solo demonstrates the amazing capabilities of man’s canine companion.

Warren explains the science and art behind the natural capacity of Solo and other working dogs to track and locate the faintest scents, serving as reliable partners, solving complex cases with detectives. Cadaver dog work is complex, requiring much guidance for both the dog and the owner.

Warren tells the story of her experience with Solo from the beginning of his training through his success with heartwarming humor and compelling tales.

Vivian Solar,

Prairieville