Reviews

Review: Stranger in the Shogun’s City: A Japanese Woman and Her World by Amy Stanley

Book Review

Stranger in the Shogun’s City: A Japanese Woman and Her World by Amy Stanley
Nonfiction, Historical, Japan

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Synopsis
A work of history that explores the life of an unconventional woman during the first half of the 19th century in Edo—the city that would become Tokyo—and a portrait of a great city on the brink of a momentous encounter with the West.


The daughter of a Buddhist priest, Tsuneno was born in a rural Japanese village and was expected to live a traditional life much like her mother’s. But after three divorces, she ran away to make a life for herself in one of the largest cities in the world: Edo.

In the book we experience the drama and excitement of Edo just prior to the arrival of American Commodore Perry’s fleet, which transformed Japan. During this pivotal moment in Japanese history, Tsuneno bounces from tenement to tenement, marries a masterless samurai, and eventually enters the service of a famous city magistrate. Tsuneno’s life provides a window into 19th-century Japanese culture—and a rare view of an extraordinary woman who sacrificed her family and her reputation to make a new life for herself, in defiance of social conventions. 

What I thought
This is the story of Tsuneno a woman born in the Japanese countryside in 1801.  Her story is not conventional for that time and she did not accomplish amazing feats, however, stories about any woman during that time are rare.  This book is truly a wonderful look into what a woman’s life in Japan during the early 1800 really was like.  

Tsuneno’s story isn’t a particularly happy one but one that probably wasn’t that uncommon during this time.  Tsuneno was first married off at the age of 12 and was sent home divorced 15 years later.  She was then married off 2 more times by her family and sent home divorced each time.  It appears through the letters that the issue was only that she wasn’t baring children.  And during a time when that was one of a women’s main “duties” through no fault of her own, she was not wanted.  There is only so much a person can take before they have had enough and for Tsuneno that was hearing that they were going to marry her off again this time to an old widow who needed a mother for his children.  Tsuneno decided to take her life into her own hands and go to Edo to try to make a life for herself.  Sadly this did not work out well for her but she was living life on her terms.  

We are lucky that Tsuneno was an avid letter writer and that her family kept every letter or we would never have been able to hear her story.  

I highly enjoyed this look into Tsuneno life.  I feel like I was given a peek into a time in history that I rarely get to see. 

My Rating: /5

Have you read this book? If so what did you think? Tell me in the comments below.

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Tours

Book Release Blitz: Weathering Old Souls by Didi Oviatt and James J. Cudney @jamescudney4 @Didi_Oviatt @RRBookTours1 #RRBookTours #WeatheringOldSouls

Congratulations to Didi Oviatt and James J. Cudney on the release of their novel, Weathering Old Souls!

Read on for details, an exclusive excerpt, and a week full of fantastic giveaways!

Weathering Old Souls
by Didi Oviatt and James J. Cudney
Contemporary Fiction with historical interludes, metaphysical elements, past life regression, suspense & mystery

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Abigail has always struggled with strange voices appearing inside her head. From the relentless tyranny a woman faces on an antebellum plantation to the unknown prison camps in America during World War II, our heroine discovers the past in a way that forever changes her future. There are moments from previous periods that serve as guiding posts for the country’s growth, but they also mark the transitions for Abigail’s own personal history. Her best friend, Margaret, partners with Abigail to discover the identity of these voices while focusing on her passion and quest to become a United States senator. Through it all, a serial killer torments the country, romance blossoms between some of the people they meet during the journey, and secrets long thought buried come to light in devastating ways. With the twisting of elements, numerical alignments, and the trauma of spiritual entanglements, no one will be the same… and just a few might not even be around anymore.

One morning as winter should’ve been transitioning into spring, an eight-year-old Abigail awakens with a piercing scream. She bolts upright and snails herself to the edge of her bed, placing a heavy hand on her chest to help steady herself and catch her breath. Her body twinges as though she’s fallen down a flight of stairs or been slammed by a double-decker trolley. The agony starts in the muscles behind her shoulder blade. From there it feels like a rocket exploded, escaping through her chest, leaving only traces of burning gases to snake their way through the rest of her fragile body. She coughs violently as her system tries to rid itself of unknown toxins.

The bedroom is dark and frigid because the pipes broke the previous day and her father was too busy sleeping off a hangover to call a contractor to fix them. Oliver has no mechanical knowledge or experience with home repair, but he tells Abigail that the Stauntons will address the issue since their heating system has also experienced problems with the winter storms that year. It’s been an unpredictable season, much more so than the usual winter in South Carolina. Some days Abigail has played outside all afternoon, hardly catching a chill. Others she wakes to a beautifully ominous layer of frost clinging to every blade of yellow grass as if its very life depends on it. 

A thin glint of light pushes through the crack between the bottom of the broken shade and the splintered windowsill. Abigail watches as the sparkly dust settles on the foot of her bed and shines brightly. It reminds her of the quartz necklace dangling on the neck of the woman in her scary dream. It was gorgeous and made the woman feel safe and comforted as it has in every dream where it made an appearance. Abigail’s told Margaret about the necklace many times, wishing she could hop out of bed today and do it again. It’s only been two months since she saw Margaret, but missing her is more than just a faint feeling. It’s soul crushing. She aches for Margaret’s companionship like any other child would her own sibling who’s grown up and gone on without her. 

In her nightmare, Abigail was stuck inside the body of an old lady running through a field, sweat pouring from her head down the curves of her hollowed and withdrawn cheeks. It was pitch black, and there were trees all around her, the wind shaking the branches such that they whispered secret directions in an unknown language. They resembled monsters with claw-like arms and vicious teeth, ready to bite her flailing limbs. Someone had been chasing her, but Abigail never saw the figure’s face.

Confusion rocks her body. Part of her is the small innocent child who wants to scream for Elizabeth, but a stronger piece of her feels much older, more mature, as if she’s lived for decades, maybe even centuries. She shakes through the aftermath of terror, unable to make sense of what happened in her sleep. All she knows is that it was horrific and made her fear something awful was destined to happen. Abigail wonders if her nightmares relate to the bits of conversation she’s overheard between Elizabeth and Bradford in the past. Elizabeth once said something about a killer coming after them again, but they’d ultimately agreed they were much safer now.

After deliberating with Imaginary May for a few moments, Abigail announces, “I can handle this on my own. I am a big girl. Margaret’s gone, but she taught me to be strong.”

She cuddles the teddy bear that Elizabeth gifted her last month for Valentine’s Day. Elizabeth had always bought one for Margaret when she was a child, the kind of mother and daughter tradition that Abigail has always yearned for. This is the first year that Margaret has been away for Spring Break during Valentine’s Day. Elizabeth missed her daughter immensely, so she purchased two identical teddy bears at the local toy store. One for Margaret, who would be home on Spring Break soon, and one for her favorite little neighbor and second daughter.

With a heavy sigh, Abigail stretches her arms above her head, extends her legs, and spreads her toes apart. Then she drops her chin to her chest, before rolling her head around in big circles. Four times each direction, one for every major element. She studied them in school that year. With each round of her neck, Abigail breathes in and counts to ten, then she lets out the air and reminds herself of everything she has to be grateful for. Margaret once taught her this morning routine, to help her ease the body tremors brought about by a nightmare, as the last doctor she saw refused to give any pain medication or advice. The stretching and breathing exercises help, and her pains slowly evaporate like a faint mist over a swamp.

An oblong mirror that’s mounted to the wall across from her window offers Abigail a dust-clouded view of her messy hair as it knots and sticks out in every direction, along with her worn-out unicorn covered nightgown. She chuckles at the sight of herself, and the last of her anxiety and spasms disappear. She imagines the body aches to have a color, a dull shade of lilac, as they lift in a swirling pattern like hazy smoke and exit out of the beam of light coming through the window.

“Stay away, you filthy bloke,” she chastises the imaginary swirl of colorful pain. 

GIVEAWAY!!

Release Week Giveaways!

$25 Amazon Gift Card
$40 Psychic Services
1 eBook of Weathering Old Souls
1 physical book of Weathering Old Souls (US Only)

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Didi Oviatt is an intuitive soul. She’s a wife and mother first, with one son and one daughter. Her thirst to write was developed at an early age, and she never looked back. After digging down deep and getting in touch with her literary self, she’s writing mystery/thrillers like Search for Maylee, Justice for Belle, Aggravated Momentum, and Sketch, along with multiple short story collections. She’s collaborated with Kim Knight in an ongoing interactive short story anthology, The Suspenseful Collection. Most recently, she published her first romance novella titled Skinny Dippin’ which was originally released as a part of the highly appraised Anthology, Sinners and Saints. When Didi doesn’t have her nose buried in a book, she can be found enjoying a laid-back outdoorsy lifestyle. Time spent sleeping under the stars, hiking, fishing, and ATVing the back roads of beautiful mountain trails, and sun-bathing in the desert heat play an important part of her day to day lifestyle. 

Listen to Didi Oviatt’s books on Audible

James is my given name, but most folks call me Jay. I live in New York City, grew up on Long Island, and graduated from Moravian College, an historic but small liberal arts school in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, with a degree in English literature and minors in Education, Business and Spanish. After college, I accepted a technical writing position for a telecommunications company during Y2K and spent the last ~20 years building a career in technology & business operations in the retail, sports, media, hospitality, and entertainment industries. Throughout those years, I wrote short stories, poems, and various beginnings to the “Great American Novel,” but I was so focused on my career that writing became a hobby. In 2016, I committed to focusing my energies toward reinvigorating a second career in reading, writing, and publishing. 

Author 

Writing has been a part of my life as much as my heart, mind, and body. At some points, it was just a few poems or short stories; at others, it was full length novels and stories. My current focus is family drama fiction, cozy mystery novels, and suspense thrillers. I conjure characters and plots that I feel must be unwound. I think of situations people find themselves in and feel compelled to tell the story. It’s usually a convoluted plot with many surprise twists and turns. I feel it necessary to take that ride all over the course. My character is easily pictured in my head. I know what he is going to encounter or what she will feel. But I need to use the right words to make it clear. 

Reader & Reviewer 

Reading has also never left my side. Whether it was children’s books, young adult novels, college textbooks, biographies, or my ultimate love, fiction, it’s ever present in my day. I read two books per week and I’m on a quest to update every book I’ve ever read on Goodreads, write up a review, and post it on all my sites and platforms.  

Blogger & Thinker 

I have combined my passions into a single platform where I share reviews, write a blog and publish tons of content: TRUTH. I started my 365 Daily Challenge, where I post about a word that has some meaning to me and converse with everyone about life. There is humor, tears, love, friendship, advice, and bloopers. Lots of bloopers where I poke fun at myself all the time. Even my dogs have had weekly segments called “Ryder’s Rants” or “Baxter’s Barks,” where they complain about me. All these things make up who I am; none of them are very fancy or magnanimous, but they are real. And that’s why they are me. 

Genealogist & Researcher 

I love history and research, finding myself often reaching back into the past to understand why someone made the choice he or she did and what were the subsequent consequences. I enjoy studying the activities and culture from hundreds of years ago to trace the roots and find the puzzle of my own history. I wish I could watch my ancestors from a secret place to learn how they interacted with others; and maybe I’ll comprehend why I do things the way I do. 

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Reviews

Review: Art in the Blood by Bonnie MacBird

Book Review

Art in the Blood by Bonnie MacBird
(Sherlock Holmes Adventures #1)
Historical, Mystery, Sherlockian

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Synopsis
Mlle La Victoire, a beautiful French cabaret star writes that her illegitimate son by an English lord has disappeared, and she has been attacked in the streets of Montmartre.

Racing to Paris with Watson at his side, Holmes discovers the missing child is only the tip of the iceberg of a much larger problem. The most valuable statue since the Winged Victory has been violently stolen in Marseilles, and several children from a silk mill in Lancashire have been found murdered. The clues in all three cases point to a single, untouchable man.

Will Holmes recover in time to find the missing boy and stop a rising tide of murders? To do so he must stay one step ahead of a dangerous French rival and the threatening interference of his own brother, Mycroft.

What I thought
I have found that I am very picky when it comes to Sherlockian stories.  If 2020 taught me anything that is it.  I have gone through many and only liked a few.  Most of them were never finished.  I am soo happy to say that this one does not disappoint. 

I was pulled into this story from the beginning.  I loved the writing in this story it mimics Doyle’s well and it made me feel like I am really reading additional stories.  The pacing was spot on I did not feel the story lag at any point.  

If you enjoy sherlockian stories then I highly suggest you picking this one up.  

I can not wait to pick up the next book in this series!

My Rating: /5

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New Releases

Waiting On Wednesday: Chain of Iron by Cassandra Clare

Waiting on Wednesday

Waiting On Wednesday was a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine. Each Wednesday you got to highlight a book that you were really looking forward to. Unfortunately, the original creator is no longer able to host the meme and it has now linked up with Can’t Wait Wednesday over at Wishful Endings.

This week I’ve chosen:

Chain of Iron by Cassandra Clare
(The Last Hours #2)
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Historical
Expected Publication: March 2, 2021

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Cordelia Carstairs seems to have everything she ever wanted. She’s engaged to marry James Herondale, the boy she has loved since childhood. She has a new life in London with her best friend Lucie Herondale and James’s charming companions, the Merry Thieves. She is about to be reunited with her beloved father. And she bears the sword Cortana, a legendary hero’s blade.

But the truth is far grimmer. James and Cordelia’s marriage is a lie, arranged to save Cordelia’s reputation. James is in love with the mysterious Grace Blackthorn whose brother, Jesse, died years ago in a terrible accident. Cortana burns Cordelia’s hand when she touches it, while her father has grown bitter and angry. And a serial murderer is targeting the Shadowhunters of London, killing under cover of darkness, then vanishing without a trace.

Together with the Merry Thieves, Cordelia, James, and Lucie must follow the trail of the knife-wielding killer through the city’s most dangerous streets. All the while, each is keeping a shocking secret: Lucie, that she plans to raise Jesse from the dead; Cordelia, that she has sworn a dangerous oath of loyalty to a mysterious power; and James, that he is being drawn further each night into the dark web of his grandfather, the arch-demon Belial. And that he himself may be the killer they seek.

Are you looking forward to this book too?

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New Releases

January 2021 Books I’m Excited About

Books I'm Excited About

Hey Everyone!

A new month a new set of releases.  There are 5 books that are coming out this month that I am excited about.

Moriarty the Patriot, Vol. 2 by Ryōsuke Takeuchi and Hikaru Miyoshi
(Moriarty the Patriot #2)
Manga, Historical, Mystery
Expected Publication: January 5, 2021

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The untold story of Sherlock Holmes’ greatest rival, Moriarty!

Before he was Sherlock’s rival, Moriarty fought against the unfair class caste system in London by making sure corrupt nobility got their comeuppance. But even the best-intentioned plans can spin out of control—will Moriarty’s dream of a more just and equal world turn him into a hero…or a monster?

After successfully establishing a foothold in Durham and cleansing the city of some of its corruption, William James Moriarty sets his sights on London. To make headway there, he needs the aid of his brother Albert. But while on his way to London, Moriarty is kidnapped by a gang of criminals! He needs Albert sooner than he thought, but will Albert be able to save him in time?


The Ruthless Lady’s Guide to Wizardry by C.M. Waggoner
Historical Fantasy
Expected Publication: January 12, 2021

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Hard-drinking petty thief Dellaria Wells is down on her luck in the city of Leiscourt—again. Then she sees a want ad for a female bodyguard, and she fast-talks her way into the high-paying job. Along with a team of other women, she’s meant to protect a rich young lady from mysterious assassins.

At first Delly thinks the danger is exaggerated, but a series of attacks shows there’s much to fear. Then she begins to fall for Winn, one of the other bodyguards, and the women team up against a mysterious, magical foe who seems to have allies everywhere.


Hall of Smoke by H.M. Long
Historical Fantasy
Expected Publication: January 19, 2021

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Hessa is an Eangi: a warrior priestess of the Goddess of War, with the power to turn an enemy’s bones to dust with a scream. Banished for disobeying her goddess’s command to murder a traveller, she prays for forgiveness alone on a mountainside.

While she is gone, raiders raze her village and obliterate the Eangi priesthood. Grieving and alone, Hessa – the last Eangi – must find the traveller, atone for her weakness and secure her place with her loved ones in the High Halls. As clans from the north and legionaries from the south tear through her homeland, slaughtering everyone in their path, Hessa strives to win back her goddess’ favour.

Beset by zealot soldiers, deceitful gods, and newly-awakened demons at every turn, Hessa burns her path towards redemption and revenge. But her journey reveals a harrowing truth: the gods are dying and the High Halls of the afterlife are fading. Soon Hessa’s trust in her goddess weakens with every unheeded prayer.

Thrust into a battle between the gods of the Old World and the New, Hessa realizes there is far more on the line than securing a life beyond her own death. Bigger, older powers slumber beneath the surface of her world. And they’re about to wake up.


The Mask of Mirrors by M.A. Carrick
(Rook & Rose #1)
Fantasy
Expected Publication: January 21, 2021

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Nightmares are creeping through the city of dreams…

Renata Viraudax is a con artist who has come to the sparkling city of Nadezra — the city of dreams — with one goal: to trick her way into a noble house and secure her fortune and her sister’s future.

But as she’s drawn into the elite world of House Traementis, she realizes her masquerade is just one of many surrounding her. And as corrupt magic begins to weave its way through Nadezra, the poisonous feuds of its aristocrats and the shadowy dangers of its impoverished underbelly become tangled — with Ren at their heart.


Unchosen by Katharyn Blair
Young Adult, Fantasy
Expected Publication: January 26, 2021

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For Charlotte Holloway, the world ended twice.

The first was when her childhood crush, Dean, fell in love—with her older sister.

The second was when the Crimson, a curse spread through eye contact, turned the majority of humanity into flesh-eating monsters.

Neither end of the world changed Charlotte. She’s still in the shadows of her siblings. Her popular older sister, Harlow, now commands forces of survivors. And her talented younger sister, Vanessa, is the Chosen One—who, legend has it, can end the curse.

When their settlement is raided by those seeking the Chosen One, Charlotte makes a reckless decision to save Vanessa: she takes her place as prisoner.

The word spreads across the seven seas—the Chosen One has been found.

But when Dean’s life is threatened and a resistance looms on the horizon, the lie keeping Charlotte alive begins to unravel. She’ll have to break free, forge new bonds, and choose her own destiny if she has any hope of saving her sisters, her love, and maybe even the world.

Because sometimes the end is just a new beginning.


Are there any books that you are looking forward to this month?

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Reviews

Review: Brass Carriages and Glass Hearts by Nancy Campbell Allen

Book Review

Brass Carriages and Glass Hearts
by Nancy Campbell Allen
(Steampunk Proper Romance #4)
Fantasy, Steampunk, Romance, Historical

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Synopsis
A steampunk retelling of Cinderella.

Emmeline O’Shea is determined to save the world—single-handedly, if necessary. A strong voice for societal reform, she is the natural choice to deliver a key speech at the end of the International Shifter Rights Organization’s week-long Summit in Scotland.

But when a death threat arrives at Emme’s home, she is immediately placed into protective custody, watched over by none other than her personal nemesis, Detective-Inspector Oliver Reed. The two have crossed paths many times, with disastrous results, but now they will have to work together in order to reach the Summit before midnight of the last day in order to ensure legislation is passed to protect the Shifter community.

As unseen enemies close in around Emme and Oliver, they struggle to reach Edinburgh by any means necessary, only to find Emme’s vindictive stepsister, Oliver’s vampire brother, and a dangerous political minefield awaiting them in Scotland.

Even more difficult is their own refusal to admit that the fiery animosity that once burned between them might be turning into the heat of romantic passion. Could a straitlaced policeman determined to uphold the law and an outspoken activist willing to break the rules ever find true love? Or will all their dreams shatter like glass when the clock strikes midnight?

What I thought
Thank you Shadow Mountain Publishing and Netgalley for an ARC copy of this book for an honest review.  All thoughts and feelings expressed are my own.

Quick note:  This book can be read as a standalone; however, I highly suggest that you read these books in order.  You will not be lost by any means, but they build on each other just enough that you get so much more out of them in order. And…well…spoilers.

Hands down this is my favorite book in this series.  I now want to go back and re-read the first three books and then read this one again. This is a Steampunk, Proper Romance, Retelling of Cinderella.  Oh, and it’s a hate to love romance, my absolute favorite thing to read.  Once I started reading this book I did not want to put it down.

In this story, we focus on Emme and Oliver.  We get to see how they have interacted in the last 2 years, mostly through conversations and memories. There is a fine line between hate and love both are very strong emotions which they are discovering. There was just something about the way that Emme and Oliver integrated with each other that I loved.  I love how all of the people you have met so far seem to all come together in this book. I had all the feels while reading this book and it made me feel so much better in general.

My only concern is that I think because so much came together in this book that it may be the last one.  I really hope that is not the case.

My Rating: /5

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Reviews

Review: The Sinister Mystery of the Mesmerizing Girl by Theodora Goss

Book Review

The Sinister Mystery of the Mesmerizing Girl
by Theodora Goss
(The Extraordinary Adventures
of the Athena Club #3)
Historical Fantasy, Mystery

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Synopsis
Mary Jekyll and the Athena Club race to save Alice—and foil a plot to unseat the Queen, in the electrifying conclusion to the trilogy that began with the Nebula Award finalist and Locus Award winner The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter.

Life’s always an adventure for the Athena Club…especially when one of their own has been kidnapped! After their thrilling European escapades rescuing Lucinda van Helsing, Mary Jekyll and her friends return home to discover that their friend and kitchen maid Alice has vanished— and so has their friend and employer Sherlock Holmes!

As they race to find Alice and bring her home safely, they discover that Alice and Sherlock’s kidnapping are only one small part of a plot that threatens Queen Victoria, and the very future of the British Empire. Can Mary, Diana, Beatrice, Catherine, and Justine save their friends—and save the Empire? Find out in the final installment of the fantastic and memorable Extraordinary Adventures of the Athena Club series.

What I thought
This is the final book in the Athena Club at least for now. I really hope that the author/publisher decides to come back to these characters they were just so fun to read. After the second book, I was a little worried how big this book would be and I was happy to see that this book was more condensed. I am not sure how the author did it but all the new storylines that were introduced in the second book along with the ones remaining from the first were beautifully tied up.

This installment picks up right where the second book left off with the kidnapping of Alice and the unknown whereabouts of Sherlock Holmes. One of my favorite elements of this story is that all of these characters are unique. They all have strong personalities and yet they all complement each other.

The injected banter between the characters about what is being written continued to add to the story. It gave these women that are essentially experiments (by men) a very human feel. At its core this is about women being able to save themselves and not needing men to survive, which is a very different ideal than what was believed during the Victorian times.

I would love to see the Athena Club made into a TV/Netflix series.

Have you read the Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter yet? I have a review for it here if you are interested.

If you have read this series how do you feel about this ending?

My Rating: /5

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