Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker

The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker

Two supernatural immigrants arrive to New York City in 1899 and become unlikely friends. Chava is a golem or a creature made from clay. She was created to be tied to a master but shortly after waking her up, her master dies on the ship bringing them to New York City. As Chava wanders around NYC a rabbi sees her for what she is and takes her under his wing. Ahmed is a jinni or a creature made from fire. A thousand years old, he was trapped in a bottle after being captured by a wizard. He can't remember what happened but a metal worker takes him as his apprentice.

While the jinni tries to remember his past and the golem tries to determine her future, the two meet and though suspicious of each other become friends. Since they don't require sleep, they wander the city at night to explore and talk. Chava does not know that her creator is looking for her, hoping to tie her to him as her master.

This is a rather enchanting story about how two individuals that seem so different can forge a great friendship. Though I didn't find it a very quick read, this was because of the level of detail brought to the story. There are many characters, which at the beginning is a bit confusing because I was unsure how all the pieces would fit together. Wecker does a fantastic job however of describing what these characters are thinking and doing which makes the story come to life.

The novel takes place in 1899 but I'm not entirely sure why. I personally didn't feel that the time the story takes place in had any bearing on the story. Immigrants may not come by boat as frequently as they did then, but people would still reach out to help those that are slightly different from themselves. Really, this book could take place in any time.

This book is quite different from anything I have read recently and I would recommend it!

Thank you to TLC Book Tours for letting me be a part of this tour!

First Line: "The Golem's life began in the hold of a steamship."


Sunday, January 19, 2014

The Holocaust by Bullets by Patrick Debois

The Holocaust by Bullets by Patrick Debois

Father Patrick Debois is a French Catholic Priest whose grandfather was imprisoned by the Germans in 1942 in the Ukraine. Inspired by his grandfather, Debois travels around Ukraine looking to unearth stories about how the Jews were treated in these small villages during WWII. He finds many elders willing to share their stories of what they witnessed while they were children. The Jews were trucked to pits that had been dug into the earth, forced to undress, and then shot en mass. Those that were shot fell in to the pits and the next group came waiting for their execution. The same story is told in many different villages.

Debois also learns about how non-Jewish villagers were forced to help the Germans by digging the pits, packing the bodies with sand, guarding the pits, cooking for the Germans between the executions, etc. According to Debois, this was a previously unknown fact that locals had been requisitioned by the Germans to do work like this. Using the bullets left in the mass graves, Desbois and his team were able to find graves, where the shooters stood, and determine the number of Jews killed, which was 1.5 million.

Interviews of individuals were transcribed for this book, most of them heart-breaking. The similarities between them all was interesting. Not all the people that wound up in the pit were dead and many said that the ground moved for days after. I read this book on the train and my eyes would well up. I just cannot understand why. What was the point of all of this death and personal destruction?

At times the book felt repetitive, but this story needed to be told. Some of the information that Debois found was new to people that have been studying the holocaust for many years. The worst part is that I bet hardly any of those that took part in the executions were brought to justice.

First Line: "Outside the window of our blue van the lush Ukrainian landscape streamed before my eyes."


Thursday, January 09, 2014

Starter House by Sonja Condit

Starter House by Sonja Condit

Lacey and Eric are newlyweds that have just become pregnant with their first child. Money is a bit tight but they want to find a starter home to raise their child in. Lacey has visions of her grandfather's house and when they find an old house that is for sale, she thinks right away that this might be the right house for them. Their realtor tries to convince them otherwise, saying that people have died in the house but no details beyond that. The price is too good to pass up so they take the house but almost instantaneously, Lacey starts seeing a young boy in and around the house named Drew. She soon learns that others can't see him and she acts through her. When Drew eats a cookie, it's actually Lacey that eats one. Eric won't believe Lacey and Drew's temper starts getting out of control, making Lacey worried for the baby. No baby has been born in the house since when Drew lived there, many years ago. Lacey isn't sure what to do with Drew or how to make sure her baby stays safe.

The characters in this novel are very hard to like. Lacey comes off rather weak and wishy-washy. She can't stick to her choices and lets the ghost run all over her. Eric, on the other hand, is self-absorbed, obsessed with money, doesn't listen to his wife, and pretty much just a jerk. The relationship between the two is no better. Why they decided to bring a baby in to the world when they weren't sorted out in their marriage is beyond me. I think I would have enjoyed the story better if I had liked and connected to one of the characters.

The story itself is a classic haunted house story. Previous lives had been affected in this house and it was interesting to watch Lacey piece everything together. I felt that the ending was rather rushed and didn't fit as nicely together as the rest of the book though.

Thank you to TLC Book Tours for letting me be a part of this book tour!

First Line: "It was already June, and the Miszlaks still hadn't found a house."


Sunday, January 05, 2014

Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde

Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde

After an unknown event in the old ways of life, Colortocracy started ruling society. Social classes are designated by which colour people can see and there are many rules set upon societies. It's quite different from life as we know it! Eddie Russett is a red and is sent to the fringes because he wants to improve the queueing system. He travels with his dad, who heals people through colour. When Eddie and his dad arrive in East Carmine, everything changes for them. The citizens of East Carmine tend to bend the rules a bit and there's a certain Grey who has caught Eddie's eye. Eddie is a bit too curious for his own good. Trying to figure out why a man pretended to be a purple instead of the grey he was and what happened to the last swatchman of East Carmine.

This book is one of the most creative books I've read. Building a society based purely on colour perception is such an interesting concept. Fforde goes beyond that and creates many additional ways of life different from current day. For example, spoons are a premium as they are no longer allowed to be made.

I found myself wondering if I could only see one colour which would it be? Purple is my favourite colour so I'd like to see that, but I think that blue would probably be my colour. I would want to be able to see the natural colour of the sky and bodies of water.

Having only read a few books in Fforde's Thursday Next series, this book exceeded my expectations. It is whitty, imaginative, humourous, and endearing.

First Line: "It began with my father not wanting to see the Last Rabbit and ended up with my being eaten by a carnivorous plant."