Note: There will be two blogs today (extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures). I hope you can enjoy both – this is the first.
Such a great story. And a true story too. You will love City of Thieves by David Benioff – his telling of his grandfather’s life during the Nazi’s seige of Leningrad.
Somehow Benioff has grown up not knowing anything about what brought his grandfather and grandmother to America. He knows his grandfather was a soldier…he has heard it whispered all his life that his grandfather killed two Germans. Is it true? Benioff finally decides to sit down with his grandfather and find out. The story he gets is beyond belief.
Poignantly told in the view of Lev Beniov, the sweeping tale is both hilarious and terrifying, heartfelt and thrilling. It is a tale of love, friendship, survival, optimism and the deepest and darkest of wartime crimes.
Benioff is a magical writer and brings the characters so clearly to life through a masterful storytelling talent that will have the reader shivering in the Russian winter snow, feeling the terror of Nazi torture and tasting the warmth of a cup of tea while starving. You will be transported to Russia during World War II. This book review of City of Thieves by David Benioff is a definite thumbs up for a unique WWII story in a current plethora of books on this topic.
*****Five stars for City of Thieves by David Benioff
This is a fun, sweet (but totally unrealistic) story of how the Pope and the Dalai Lama decided to take a vacation. I enjoyed this lighthearted story and I think you will too.
As the world has been on lockdown for weeks and months, I came coming back to this story and how it must feel to be someone like Pope Francis or the Dalai Lama whose lives are scheduled to the second and there is no control of your own personal time…ever.
Maybe they feel the need to “get away from it all” from time to time? Well in this fictional story that is exactly what happens. Many of the steps that take place to make this spontaneous get-away happen are ridiculous and could never really happen in real life, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a fun story.
I enjoyed the portrayal of both the Pope and the Dalai, even though for me some of the religious and second-coming references were less believeable. And yet, anyone, whether religious or not will find this story a quick and easy read, with laugh out loud escapades as well as deep perspective moments.
****Four Stars for The Delight of Being Ordinary by Roland Merullo.
What a surprise this book was. A book about a book. I loved it.
Set in post-war era where the USA (CIA) is trying to infiltrate the USSR, this book is based on real events and a real plot to bring the classic Russian novel Dr. Zhivago, first out of the USSR to be printed and then back to the people of the USSR to read.
Instead of propaganda, the CIA used Pasternak’s magnum opus against the USSR government. What you say? Crazy right? I had no idea that magnificent book by Pasternak was banned in the USSR and thanks to a net work of primarily female spies, the book was infiltrated into the USSR during the Cold War 1960’s.
The story takes the reader from the height of the Cold War in the Washington DC region to the streets of Moscow and the the Soviet Union prison of Galug. Pasternak and his real life mistress and muse Olga Ivinskaya dedicate their lives to get Dr. Zhivago published. But without the “secretaries” turned spies from the CIA, this classical and epic novel would never have seen print.
The book touches eloquently on so many societal issue of the day from lack of females in prominent roles in offices, to mysogenistic work places. It touches on male dominance of females in the work place as well as the societal norms that women should be home with the children.
I enjoyed this book, learning about the personal life of Pasternak, as well as some of the horribly brutal consequences of going against the government in the Soviet Union. I also thought the author did a great job with the descriptive narrative bringing the reader back to the 1950’s with details about clothing and cars, decor and dining and a variety of other historical detail making the book come to life. This is one book I would love to see as a movie. I’m already thinking about who should play the leads.
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️Five Stars for The Secrets We Kept by Lara Prescott
I wish I had read this book before my visit to Belfast in 2016. I would have seen the city and the events that took place here in a clear light. This well researched non-fiction book truly opened my eyes to the thirty year “Troubles” in Northern Island and dives right to the heart of the bitter and deadly conflict that gripped the people of Northern Ireland for decades.
But this conflict goes back further. Generations and generations of people on both sides have faced off. In fact I have just finished reading Ken Follett’s Column of Fire, where the Catholics and the Protestants were killing each other in the 1500’s. Well, from 1972 to the late 1990’s they continued to kill each other in Northern Ireland.
Although the Irish Republic Army (IRA) claimed to always be fighting for a unified Ireland and the exit of the British, in reality the horrific conflict comes down to faith and years of family indoctrination.
This is not an easy book to read. Both for its graphic nature but also for the minutia of detail laid out in the chronological telling. Some readers might throw in the towel. I stuck it out because I found the nature of what happened in Ireland interesting for it’s similarity to every other conflict around the world, both past and present. Always at the core of every conflict is one group who believes they are better than another. It comes always down to this.
I was taken by a quote I just read that I think applies to this topic –
God made so many kinds of people. Why would he allow only one way to serve him?” – Martin Buber
I learned a lot from this book. A story that needed to be told. A story of a still unresolved issues. A story of unsolved murders with known murderers still walking free. A story with little justice or gratifying closure for thousands of people who lost loved ones, who lost property, who still today live in fear of retribution.
You should read this story to understand what happened here.
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️Five stars for Say Nothing
Read last weeks’s review of Love Thy Neighbor.
My current read – The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes.
Love Thy Neighbor: A Muslim Doctor’s Struggle for Home in Rural America.
I actually cried reading this book. People can be so cruel. And ignorant. It broke my heart. This is a true story.
In 2013 with an open heart to serve, Ayaz Virji moves to rural Minnesota to serve at a country hospital, where American doctors don’t want to be. He brings his family and looks forward to building a life in this community with his wife and children.
But then Donald Trump was elected and out of the woodwork of rural America emerged the racism. Virji’s family was faced with anti-Muslim remarks and his patients began to question whether he should be in the country.
Just as he was about to flee for the safety of his family, a local Christian pastor invited him to speak at her church about the misconceptions of Muslim practice and belief.
You want to hope that this open dialogue would make everyone realize we should all just love each other and get along. But it doesn’t. In fact it gets very rough and difficult as Virji finds himself speaking to churches around the state.
My heart goes out to this author and the trials he faced. This book might open some eyes to tolerance, but unfortunately I doubt it will. Rascism is deep and embedded and heartbreaking.
I recently reviewed Backman’s Bear Town, and wasn’t very complimentary. But in My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She is Sorry I am once again a fan. A really lovely feel good story in the vein of A Man Called Ove.
Seven-year-old Elsa is very mature for her age. Her little brain is far and away past most kids in her class. And her friendship with her sometimes “crazy” Grandma plays a key role in Elsa’s unique way of looking at the world, even as a seven-year-old. Elsa’s grandmother tells her a story about the Land of Almost Awake, a mysterious wonderland of good and evil.
But when Elsa’s Grandmother dies, Elsa embarks on a mysterious treasure hunt orchestrated by her Grandmother before her death. A series of letters apologizing to people in her Grandmother’s life will bring Elsa to a unique understanding of the remarkable woman her Grandma was, and how the Land of Almost Awake is not a fantasy afterall. In fact it is a real place and has been right under Elsa’s nose all along.
Backman’s writing pulls at your heartstrings and you will fall in love with Elsa and her eclectic collection of companions as Elsa learns from her incredible Grandma (in life and death) how kindness and courage are the greatest strengths, especially for people who are little bit different.
Well. I had high hopes for this book. Hmmmm. It got great reviews but for me it just fell short of spectacular and I was left going “meh”.
Touted as the next “Gone Girl” (big shoes) and “destined for the big screen” (maybe better as a movie?) I just couldn’t find the love for this book.
I figured out the plot twist pretty early on, and although there were some surprising turns, there were also some gaping holes.
We are introduced to a psychotherapist, a famous artist, and a famous photographer. Difficult family backgrounds and childhoods, insecurities and infidelity will play a big role in the development of these characters and how their lives and deaths come together.
Who loves who? Who is the real villain? Who is really the crazy one? And in the end will we be satisfied with the wrapping up of this “thriller”? Unfortunately, I wasn’t. Movie coming! “Meh”.
⭐️⭐️⭐️Three stars for The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides