Review: The Orphan’s Tale by Pam Jenoff

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I must admit, I don’t read many books with a circus as the setting.  So I guess you could say this one was a bit of a stretch for me.  Still, it’s historical fiction which is my favorite genre so…

Two women thrown together in the unlikeliest of circumstances.  Young Noa finds herself cast out and alone after a one night stand with a Nazi solder leaves her pregnant and a disgrace to her family.  Astrid finds herself in the same situation after her marriage ends.  They both find their way to the circus.  Astrid has been here before.  She did, after all, grow up as the child of circus performers.  For Noa, it’s all strange and scary.  But she has to protect not only herself but the young baby she’s caring for.  Both women have much to lose.

This is a story of friendship, of love and loss.  It’s a story of hardship and resilience.  But most of all, it’s a story you won’t soon forget.

~Thalia

Buy It Now:  The Orphan’s Tale

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Review: Secrets She Kept by Cathy Gohlke

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Stories like this are the reason I continue to love historical fiction.  Skilled authors are able to take an event or era from the past and weave an intricately compelling story around it.  Granted, there’s no shortage of stories set in Nazi Germany, but this one is definitely a must-read if you’re a fan of the genre.

It’s the early 1970’s, and Hannah must come to terms with her mother’s recent death.  Not particularly close to her in life, she now is faced with the task of clearing out her mom’s house and possessions.  A job to be completed as quickly as possible so that she can get back to her life. Until she comes across some mysterious letters, that is.

And so  her quest takes her all the way to Germany where she meets a grandfather she had no idea even existed.  And she’s a surprise to him as well.  Hannah is as determined to find out her family secrets as her grandfather is determined to keep them forever hidden.  As she digs deeper, she finds out so much more than she bargained for.  And she discovers the person her mother truly was.

Much of the appeal of this story, as is the case with most historical fiction, is that it’s told from two perspectives spanning several decades.  What Hannah is feeling is entirely justified, but hearing her mother’s story puts a whole new spin on things.  An excellent story with the reminder that things aren’t always what they seem!

~Thalia

Buy It Now:   Secrets She Kept

Review: The Children’s Train: Escape on the Kindertransport by Jana Zinser

51Xzv+KHYsL._SX323_BO1,204,203,200_If you asked me what my preferred genre is, I’d be hard pressed to narrow it down to just one. However, historical fiction ranks at the top of that list. I love a book that tells a great story while also teaching me a bit of something new. That’s why some of my favorite books of all time include The Book Thief and The Orphan Train. It’s for that very reason that this book by Jana Kinser caught my eye.

Nazi Germany was a terrifying place for all, but especially for young children. Their safe, secure world was turned upside down as they were targeted for nothing more than being Jewish. Homes and livelihoods were destroyed, families were separated, loved ones lost their lives. All because of something they had no control over. But there was hope for many of the children in the form of selfless volunteers who risked their lives to help these children escape and have a chance at a somewhat normal life.

For the most part, this story centers on young Peter. He and his family have a happy, secure life in their comfy little apartment above their butcher shop. That all comes crashing down when the Nazis invade their small town taking over everything. Suddenly, being Jewish is a crime, punishable by death even. Peter and his family find themselves without a home along with many others. When the chance to escape presents itself, Peter and his younger sister take it. On the Kindertransport they go, off to a better life. Their journey is not without risks, though, as the war rages on.

There are other characters, of course. And their stories are just as important. There’s young Eva, the apple of Peter’s eye. She has a ticket on the train to freedom but her older brother has a different idea. Stephen and Hans are sent on the train to safety by their respective families. And then there are the tragic stories of those left behind, children who didn’t get a seat on the train as well as adults not able to escape.

This was an incredibly engaging story for me because I had no idea such a thing existed. The Kindertransport was something new that I’m now highly motivated to learn more about. For that reason alone, it was a book I just couldn’t put down. The characters and storylines were good as well, although I did feel that many of the deaths were described too matter-of-factly. Still, a great story about an interesting subject!

~Thalia

Buy It Now: The Children’s Train: Escape on the Kindertransport