Review of Counted With the Stars by Connilyn Cossette


Genre: Biblical Fiction/History/Romance

Series: Out of Egypt, Book 1


Kiya was a wealthy Egyptian, engaged to be married, when her father lost everything–selling her into slavery where she was no longer a good match for her fiancé. In slavery she becomes friends with a Hebrew girl, and experiences the plagues and Exodus from Egypt from the unique worldview of an outsider.

The historical foundation of this fictionalized account is very good; and the perspective is very interesting. The portion of the story when the Hebrews cross the sea, and their time in the wilderness is particularly well done. I was less impressed with the plagues, and found much of the narrative (especially the beginning and very end) to move too slowly, even though the content is solid.

I also could have done without the romance, which felt a bit cliché–although maybe this is what people want? The story could have been stronger by focusing more on the friendship, identity issues, and religious experience of the women without the distraction of finding Kiya a suitable mate.

I loved the fresh perspective of the Exodus, which brought the biblical story to life.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Bethany House.


Review of The End of Law: A Novel of Hitler’s Germany by Therese Down


Genre: Historical Fiction/Holocaust



In 1933 Berlin, Hedda Schroeder is wealthy, naive, and caught up in her superficial life of jazz clubs, dating, and fashion. She dates two men: Karl Muller, a medical student and engineer, who bores her; and Walter Gunther, who is attractive, charming, and ambitious in his mysterious work as a newly hired SS officer.

In 1940, Hedda is married with two children to Walter, who is abusive in both his marriage and political work. Hedda also reconnects with Karl, as he and her husband work together as SS officers within the secret T4 euthanasia programme–its mission to kill those unworthy to live, including those with physical and mental illnesses.

This dark, fast moving narrative is informative and powerful in graphically detailing some of the horrors within the T4 euthanasia programme. It captures “adult material” that is not always easy to read, yet very important to remember and take as a warning.

The characters respond differently under the pressure of their circumstances–but each in a very human way. I especially enjoyed Hedda’s transformation from self-absorbed to aware and courageous. I enjoyed the end-note that Karl is loosely based on a real person. And I was challenged to consider the depth of evil, and the ethical and practical responsibilities of those who recognize it.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Lion Hudson.



Review of Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning by Timothy Snyder


Genre: History/Holocaust


9781101903452It’s Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day), and I just finished reading this comprehensive and unique history of the Holocaust.

This book caused me to consider the Holocaust and anti-Semitism in a new way, even if I did not always agree with Snyder’s interpretations.

Snyder begins with addressing Hitler’s political and sociological motivations, especially in terms of Lebensraum (living space)–the idea that the higher race deserves a higher standard of living including more space, and decadence. He argues along these lines that Hitler’s motivations went beyond traditional anti-Semitism with a more personal and political aim, only later leading to his Final Solution to exterminate the Jews.

Snyder also describes the overall political atmosphere and relationships between the countries involved in WWII, with special concentration on Germany, the Soviet Union, and Poland; and in consideration of the weight of double occupancy, the myth of Judeo-Bolshevism (blaming Jews for communism), and the influences of the destruction of state power. Multiple individual accounts are shared to demonstrate those political tensions from a personal perspective. I also appreciate that Snyder extends beyond Auschwitz to the deeper horrors occurring in the multitude of states around Europe.

However, I expected a stronger and more grounded focus on the Holocaust as a warning. While the history is comprehensive, the warning appears only in the final chapter and is weakly focused on the Green Revolution, and climate change. While I agree with Snyder in the importance of caring for the earth and living sustainably, I adamantly disagree with his conclusions in linking this and state power with preventing a next holocaust.

Snyder’s perspective is interesting–I was not aware of all of these variables, and am interested to do further research and draw my own conclusions. I recommend the book due to its solid research, and presentation of ideas, rather than for its interpretations and conclusions.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Tim Duggan Books.