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.
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!
I’ve been reading and enjoying The Psalm 23 Mysteries since Book 1. Number 11 – Thou Art With Me – might be the best one yet.
As with the other books in the series, church secretary Cindy and rabbi Jeremiah pair up to solve a murder. In prior books they developed a friendship and then something deeper. This installment is set around Valentine’s Day, so it’s apt that their relationship evolves even more.
The murder is a serious one, and there’s real danger to Cindy and Jeremiah. I loved how Cindy got to have the upper hand in this investigation. Her poker skills were amazing, and had I not already loved her she would’ve become my favorite character based on that poker game scene alone.
Debbie Viguie is one of the few authors I’ve read who has a talent for writing a high-quality novel quickly. The dialogue, character depth and authenticity, consistency, and writing technique are TOP NOTCH. Viguie moves the plot along very quickly without sacrificing detail. With this book, and every Psalm 23 Mystery, I am on an amusement park ride that’s fast, fun, and life-changing. I remain impressed, and can’t wait for Book 12.
I generally don’t read children’s fiction, but I wanted to read Nest to get an idea of the usefulness of a book about children grieving. I can report with confidence this: I believe Nest would be helpful for 10-14 year olds with a mentally unstable or absent parent. They would see they are not alone, people grieve and cope in myriad ways, and anger is natural. Young readers could see that maintaining connections — family ties, friendships, or even looser relationships — help distract as well as move a person through his or her bucketful of emotions. Moving forward is key.
That’s my opinion as a mother and a former schoolteacher.
My emotional response to Nest was pretty much bawling my eyes out. A child without two loving parents just kills me… though I know it is so, so common. I felt for Chirp and her sister, for Chirp’s friends Dawn and Joey… Why did they have to suffer? Why did their lives have to be upended?
Yet they found ways to cope. They found ways to hope. They found ways to stick together to fill up a little bit of what was missing.
Nest is well-written, from the sentence structure to the easy flow to the authentic characters. The only niggling detail was about prayer: the author had Chirp uncomfortable saying grace before a meal, or saying the name Jesus. But I’m pretty sure Jewish people say grace (to G-d, not Jesus) and they believe Jesus existed, just that he wasn’t the Messiah. Besides that, Nest was wonderful. The 1970s were portrayed just as I remember them, without being contrived or hokey. And though the ending was sad, I finished the book with the thought that those children were going to make it. They had hope, they had strength, and they had each other.
If you’ve been reading the Psalm 23 Mysteries, you’ve got to read The Shadow of Death. Right. Now. It’s fast-paced, international, truth-revealing, and the most dangerous book in the series yet. I love when a plot is written so well that you feel like you’re on a thrill ride… no effort, just excitement and fun!
If you haven’t picked up the Psalm 23 Mysteries, I implore you to. Despite the name, they aren’t preachy or hokey or Bible-pushing. They feature a church secretary and a Jewish rabbi who keep tripping over dead bodies. Some of the time it’s coincidental, and some of the time it’s due to Rabbi Jeremiah’s sordid past.
In The Shadow of Death, Jeremiah’s secrets are revealed, he comes clean about his true feelings for Cindy, and he faces his biggest fear.
Read it. Love it. Wait for the next one. Amazing writing and a really fun ride.