We’re at the end of another Bout of Books and I hope everyone had a good week! My Monday through Friday went great, the weekend went a bit off the rails due to one book, but more on that later. Overall, I thought the week was a success and fun as always.
I usually write mini reviews for each of the books I read during the week, but I decided to leave out Black Panther Vol. 3, since its a part of the series.
City of Thieves – David Benioff
Through the winter of 1942, Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) was under siege, cut off by the Nazis. As times grow desperate, Lev finds himself in a jail cell for looting, and meets a charismatic deserter named Koyla.
Both are tasked with the impossible: If they wish to avoid execution, then they’ll have to obtain a dozen eggs in a week’s time. In a city that is starving, how will Lev and Koyla ever find such a treasure?
Over the past few years, I’ve tried to stay away from World War II books, partly due to the graphic content, but also because there’s so many books about this war. I’ve already read enough on the topic… and yet, there’s is still so much I don’t know. Which is probably why I decided to give City of Thieves a shot. I actually know very little about what was happening in Russia during the War.
I was also drawn to this book because everyone kept using the saying that ‘yes it is sad, but also funny’. I was hoping the humor in the book would keep the material from getting too bleak. I was incorrect in this assumption. This book has some of the saddest images I’ve ever read.
I’m not saying there isn’t humor, as the friction between the two leads and the hoops they have to go through brings levity, but nothing can erase the horror in this book. Even more heartbreaking is that this story was based off the author’s grandfather’s stories (how much the author uses though, we don’t know).
So recommending City of Thieves is a bit difficult. The book itself is great, but it’s really up to the individual on if you’re able to handle (or want to read a book) that deals with starvation, brutal deaths, cannibalism, and rape. So tread carefully with this one.
Pages Read: 285
Dreamland Burning – Jennifer Latham
While 17 year old Rowan’s family is renovating their home, workers uncover a century old skeleton under the floor of the old servant’s quarters. Rowan tries to piece together what happen at her family’s home in 1921.
Parallel to Rowan’s narration is William’s story from 1921. A fight leads to serious ramifications and starts changing William’s viewpoint. As racial tension starts to ramp up, what will William do when Tulsa starts tearing itself apart?
And it’s William’s narration that I really enjoyed, and the actions he takes during the Tulsa massacre. The changes in his worldview seemed real to me and I was invested in the relationships he develops throughout the book. Sadly, I wish the present day story was as compelling.
Rowan is trying to figure the mystery behind the skeleton, but her actual storyline feels weirdly separate. The majority of the information is found out by her best friend ‘off screen’ or from the forensic anthropologist working on the case. Rowan is busy with her own life… and it’s kinda boring. The only tie-in is that Rowan is seeing how some things haven’t changed in 100 years.
I wish that both sides of the story were great and tied-in better, because the historical event highlighted in Dreamland Burning is one that not a lot of people know about. I think a good book helps push unknown history to public knowledge, but I think this book is just the beginning and hopefully stronger books are around the corner.
Pages Read: 365
To the Bright Edge of the World – Eowyn Ivey
I’ll keep this one brief since I DNF’d it, but Eowyn Ivey’s second novel is about an Alaskan expedition in 1885 led by Colonel Allen Forrester. The narration is from Forrester’s personal notes, letters back and forth to his wife Sophie, and Sophie’s diary.
With Ivey’s first book, The Snow Child, I felt like the Magical Realism was forefront and Historical Fiction was the supporting player. In To the Bright Edge of the World it was flipped, and sadly I found the historical elements to be very dry.
I want to give the book another try in the future, but sadly it just wasn’t a good pick for a readathon.
Pages Read: 140 (DNF @ 35%)
Black Panther Vol. 3
Pages Read: 98