Every so often a book comes along that manages to be both wonderfully mystical yet still grounded in realism and humanity. The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker is a book that melds worlds, cultures and literary genres seamlessly. The setting of the novel, New York City in 1899, is a prefect locale to tell a story that deals with a multicultural and magical events. The story revolves around two magical creatures from different cultures as they learn to live transplanted into a city packed with danger.
The Golem and the Jinni is a book that refuses to be easily classified. On the surface the story is a historical fiction and fantasy novel, but there is more to it than that. It’s certainly a fantasy novel, dealing with a Golem, created out of clay to be the perfect wife for a Jewish immigrant and a Jinni, trapped for centuries and unknowingly transported to America by a Syrian family, the novel is also deals with history, religion and culture in a strong and realistic way that lands the story firmly in the literary fiction tradition. (more…)
Neil Gaiman’s latest novel, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, is a modern fairy tale that’s sure to become a classic. I have extremely high expectations for Gaiman’s work, as his American Gods is one of my favorite books, and I was not disappointed. The Ocean at the End of the Lane delivers everything a reader could want from a fantasy novel: adventure, mythological creatures both good and evil, mystery, suspense and a glimpse at worlds unknown.
The unnamed protagonist of the story is a man who travels to his childhood home for a funeral which leads him on a trip down memory lane. As he visits the Hempstock farm at the end of the lane, he begins to remember the adventure he had the spring he was 7 years old. Most of the story is told from the point of view of the 7 year old boy, curious and introspective, an avid reader. His life is simple: a younger sister, mother and father; his parents have fallen on hard times and have to rent out the boy’s room to tenants to help pay the bills, and his mother has to begin working outside the home as well. This change in the family dynamic is what starts the adventure for the boy. (more…)
Anne Lyle embarks on an ambitious series in The Alchemist of Souls, combining alternative history, fantasy and historical fiction in Elizabethan England. In Lyle’s England, not only has Queen Elizabeth married her devoted friend Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, but they also have two sons, Robert and Arthur, creating a twist in history that changes the world of Elizabeth as we know it. The second surprising shift in history comes in the form of an intelligent, mysterious race called the skrayling, encountered in the New World by explorers and brought back to England as allies.
The two major historical twists notwithstanding, the world Lyle creates in The Alchemist of Souls is still filled with Elizabethan tradition. Acting and the theater play a large role in the story, and Lyle’s attention to the behind the scenes backstage world of the theater is one of the high points of the novel. Court intrigue and mystery abound, which should delight the reader throughout the book. (more…)
So I guess that’s not a hint, but I’ve been working on adding some Must Have Books to our Must Have List for my readers, so check them out! I know not everyone would think of having a graphic novel by Alan Moore next to a collection of the works of Jane Austen in their library, but I think one of the most exciting things about creating your own library is keeping it well-rounded and diverse.
I also believe that reading from a wide range of genres, authors and time periods truly helps a reader enjoy all books more. The more you have to compare a book to, or relate a story to, the richer the experience becomes.
In other Excellent Library news; I’m hoping to launch a Must Have Kids Books page very soon, so be ready for that, and as always, feel free to leave me suggestions for books to review or add to our Must Have lists.
Check out the updated list here and leave some suggestions from your excellent library in the comments section! Enjoy!by Kate
I have a soft spot for short stories. I think an entire, fleshed out story in one small dose is worth reading. Short story collections are also a great way to get a sampling of the different voices one author can use, and the collection Last Summer at Mars Hill and Other Short Stories by Elizabeth Hand is no exception.
Hand’s writing falls into the genre of speculative fiction, which is fiction that is so different that it can’t just be labeled fantasy or sci fi. Speculative fiction comes from a place of no rules; in writing or in the universes in which they take place. It’s a fun if sometimes challenging genre. A collection of short stories is a wonderful introduction to the genre, and this collection by Hand encompasses speculative fiction in all its weird, fantastic glory. (more…)by Kate