Category Archives: Historical Fiction

Book Review: Shadow Warrior: Based on the True Story of a Fearless Ninja and Her Network of Female Spies by Tanya Lloyd Kyi, Celia Krampien (Illustrator)

Annick Press
Published Sept. 12, 2017
64 Pages

It’s 1558, and warlords across Japan are battling for territory and control. Into this setting, Tanya Lloyd Kyi weaves the stories of three people: Mochizuki Chiyome, a young woman determined to become a ninja whose plans are thwarted by an arranged marriage; Takeda Shingen (The Tiger), a fierce warlord seeking a new weapon to outsmart his enemies; and Aki, an orphaned tavern girl whose destiny is changed by a mysterious woman.

As their stories intersect, the three characters become key players in an elaborate network of undercover female ninjas who will eventually shift the balance of power in Japan. Based on the true story of Mochizuki Chiyome and her all-female spy network.- Goodreads

*Short Review*

I really enjoyed this. I don’t know what I was expecting when I picked up this book but the amount of history and story placed in this quick read was amazing. From the beginning, you are pulled in and you don’t want to leave.

This book is detailed without being dragged out and its colorful and complicated without feeling the author is trying to do too much. My only issue with this read, is I wish it was longer.

I loved how the author moved easily between three different point of views/three different stories. But I wanted to know more about each of them. Not necessarily their past, but what they were doing presently, what happened when the world started changing. I know that this book is meant for children, specifically middle schoolers but this read opened my curiosity to Mochizuki and what women did during this time.

It really is a good starting point for anyone that is mildly interested in badass women.

4 Pickles

Book Review: The Disappearances by Emily Bain Murphy

HMH Books for Young Readers
Published July 4, 2017
388 Pages

What if the ordinary things in life suddenly…disappeared?

Aila Quinn’s mother, Juliet, has always been a mystery: vibrant yet guarded, she keeps her secrets beyond Aila’s reach. When Juliet dies, Aila and her younger brother Miles are sent to live in Sterling, a rural town far from home–and the place where Juliet grew up.

Sterling is a place with mysteries of its own. A place where the experiences that weave life together–scents of flowers and food, reflections from mirrors and lakes, even the ability to dream–vanish every seven years.

No one knows what caused these “Disappearances,” or what will slip away next. But Sterling always suspected that Juliet Quinn was somehow responsible–and Aila must bear the brunt of their blame while she follows the chain of literary clues her mother left behind. 

As the next Disappearance nears, Aila begins to unravel the dual mystery of why the Disappearances happen and who her mother truly was. One thing is clear: Sterling isn’t going to hold on to anyone’s secrets for long before it starts giving them up. -Goodreads

I’ve been sitting on this book for a while, unfortunately,  so when I actually began reading it, I was very pleased.

The Disappearances started off really well. It doesn’t take a whole lot of time for you to get to some big points in the novel. However, the first thing I noticed was how Aila acted. Although she is 17, her actions, the way she speaks and interacts with everyone makes it appear she is younger than what she is. It isn’t until she starts school… high school that you have a confirmation on her age. From there, how she interacts with others and what her own actions begin to shift. It was interesting to read because I thought she was 12 when I began the book.

Beyond that she was an alright character. I didn’t dislike her nor did I like her. I felt that she was one of those neutral characters that only saves the day because of how it affects her and her family and not necessarily because it may be the right thing to do or because she has that spark in her.

The love interest didn’t have enough chemistry for me to feel that it was truly genuine, which is unfortunate because it would have been nice. Half way through the book things staled a little as not a whole lot was really really going on. When some things did happen, it wasn’t the big explosion the book or even the summary made it seem it was going to be. It was disappointing the say the least.

But I kept reading the book even though my excited for it was dwindling. I couldn’t put it down because the author was very creative and it reminded me a bit of a movie I watch on Netflix called Perfect Sense (2011) featuring Eva Green and Ewan McGregor. It’s a decent watch with a lack luster ending, which surprisingly is exactly how I feel about the ending of this book.

Overall, I didn’t think it was a bad read and for the most part I enjoyed this book. But there were misses in the plot, backstory, romance and twists (the twist is not shocking at all). This book could have been amazing but for the most part, it was a nice between read.

3 Pickles

Book Review: Mad Miss Mimic by Sarah Henstra

Penguin Canada Published May 5, 2015 272 Pages
Penguin Canada
Published May 5, 2015
272 Pages

Leo was born into a family with privilege and in 1870 she is short of nothing. Living with her wealthy sister, Leo seems to have the perfect life. But an intense speech impediment (stuttering) stops her from speaking, causing her to mimic her aunt’s words in order to satisfy society’s curiosity.

Thus causing suitors to stay away from her except adventurer Mr. Thornfax. But why would he want a woman like her? And is he connected to the terror attacks plaguing the city with victims are taken over by opium fever? Leo must find out the truth and find her true voice. 

What I enjoyed about this book was the original idea. A woman during the 1870s with a stuttering issues, and no about of doctor visits can solve the issue. I liked how the author brought a different light to the “perfect” woman (protagonist). But this was a hard read as there wasn’t a whole lot of conversation due to obvious reasons. Therefore, the tone sounded the same for a majority of the book and that is a huge problem for me.

I didn’t have an issue with Leo as a character. But I did have an issue with her lack of personality. Although for some time she tried not to speak, I didn’t think that was grounds for making her a bit lifeless. I wanted some kind of spark, rebellion from her not when she needed to find the truth but from the beginning.

The pace of the novel was a bit slow. It takes a while for things to really happen and the beginning of the book doesn’t really get you involved in the book. I wasn’t sucked into this story at all, which is extremely unfortunate but it wasn’t a bad book but it wasn’t a great read either.


2 Pickles

Book Review: The Spy by Paulo Coelho

Knopf Published Nov. 22, 2016 208 Pages
Published Nov. 22, 2016
208 Pages

Mata Hari arrived to Pairs penniless but with a plan; to move up in status. As a dancer, she excited the world with her moves and body but as a courtesan she seduced some of the most powerful and richest men of her time. 

But when war breaks out, Mata comes under fire for her ways and the people she knows. In 1917, Mata was arrested and accused of espionage. In her final letter to her lawyer and daughter, Mata tells her side of the story. 

*short review*

I have never heard of Mata Hari until I read this book. Yes, she is a real person. Yes, she really was a dancer, who also was a courtesan, who was also arrested for being a spy, a traitor. But keep in mind that this isn’t a non-fiction book. Coelho created a story based on research i.e. some facts.  Just wanted to clear that up.

I loved this story. I loved everything about it from beginning to end. Instantly, you are captivated and curious about this woman and that is mainly because the book started at the end. I was shocked not by that method but by the clear picture I saw in my head and the honesty. That is what I loved most about this book; Mata was unapologetically honest even at her death. It was refreshing to read.

The book was constantly moving even when Mata was making silent moves, the book didn’t stale and I really appreciated that. There is one thing that may prove to be a issue for some readers. When the war began and people were being paranoid, Mata was no longer a real likable woman. Looking from the outside in, you can see why people were upset at her. I was upset at her to the point that I believe she set herself up.

But I did enjoy the fact that while reading this book you can’t tell what is fact and what is fiction. It feels completely true; personal thoughts and all.

Overall, I highly recommend this book not only as a good read but as a gateway to finding more about Mata Hari.

5 Pickles

Book Review: Gilded Cage (A Canary Club Novella) by Sherry D. Ficklin

Published Dec. 1, 2016
Published Dec. 1, 2016

Masie is the daughter of notorious boot-legger Dutch Schultz and after being sent away to boarding school, unexpectedly she is called back when her mother falls ill. To keep her family’s dangerous secrets Masie is forced to lie about something so big, it can destroy everything as she knows it. 

I understand this is an introduction into a new series and I understand that this is a novella. However, I couldn’t like it any less if I didn’t know those pieces of information.

My biggest issue of this book was the fact that it felt incomplete. The book simply ended and I know it is to lead into another book but it was weak.

I didn’t like Masie. Her intentions seem really messed up and as much as she complains about her father, all I can think of was how much she is like him. I felt that maybe something decent about her would show but it wasn’t there. This introduction appears to be more about her selfish motives than anything to do with her mother or the family secret.

The overall plot felt like it was put together in a rush and there wasn’t too much concerned for it as it isn’t a full story. I like the author; her Queen of Someday series is amazing. But this did not make me want to read the upcoming series. There wasn’t enough on the surrounding characters, who will play a big part in the series and there wasn’t enough back.

Despite this, there is one thing I did like. The story’s setting is during the Gatsby era New York and I love it. I wish that there was more detail but I did like the aspect of that story.




2 Pickles

Impatiently Waiting For: Ivory and Bone (Ivory and Bone #1) by Julie Eshbaugh

HarperTeen To Be Published June 7, 2016 384 Pages
To Be Published June 7, 2016
384 Pages

A prehistoric fantasy—with allusions to Pride and Prejudice.

Hunting, gathering, and keeping his family safe—that’s the life seventeen-year-old Kol knows. Then bold, enigmatic Mya arrives from the south with her family, and Kol is captivated. He wants her to like and trust him, but any hopes of impressing her are ruined when he makes a careless—and nearly grave—mistake. However, there’s something more to Mya’s cool disdain…a history wrought with loss that comes to light when another clan arrives. With them is Lo, an enemy from Mya’s past who Mya swears has ulterior motives.

As Kol gets to know Lo, tensions between Mya and Lo escalate until violence erupts. Faced with shattering losses, Kol is forced to question every person he’s trusted. One thing is for sure: this was a war that Mya or Lo—Kol doesn’t know which—had been planning all along– Goodreads

Book Review: The Tsar of Love and Techno by Anthony Marra

Hogarth Published Oct. 6, 2015 352 Pages
Published Oct. 6, 2015
352 Pages

A collection of short stories beginning in the 1930s Soviet Union and ending in the present Russia. 

I can’t seem to stay away from short stories; especially when they have a cover such as this one. But the moment I realized this was a short story, I actually didn’t stop reading it. Because it was pretty good.

Despite the seriousness of the stories, the author’s writing was very light. It didn’t feel heavy and I wasn’t feeling a weight on my chest of depression. But I wasn’t happy or excited either. The author made these stories easy to digest and I loved that method.

The story about a Soviet censor whose job was to correct offending photographs was my favorite. It reminded me 1984 by George Orwell, which is a classic. It could have been written as a full novel and I would have not complained at all.  It was extremely powerful and I felt so bad for the man. I wanted so much more from it.

Another story I loved involved an actress and her family. I loved how there was different points of view to an overall story and not necessarily the story about the actress. But again, I wanted more. The story didn’t feel incomplete but there was pieces missing that would have been great to know.

For most of the part, all of the stories felt this way, which was slightly unfortunate.

Although those were my top two stories, the entire book was well written, full of emotion and detailed. I loved how the stories were connected with more than just location. But I can’t completely say creative because it feels like stories from actual lives and the author is more of a storyteller than a story writer. This isn’t a horrible thing but it isn’t a reason why I read books.

Overall, I am going to have to put this on the shelf as a job well done in the short story category.


3 Pickles

Book Review: The Vanishing Throne (The Falconer #2) by Elizabeth May

Chronicle Books  To Be Published June 7, 2016 384 Pages
Chronicle Books
To Be Published June 7, 2016
384 Pages

Aileana Kameron disappeared through a portal, while fighting for her life and the world she loves. When she awakes she finds that she is trapped by the evil Lonnrach. Unable to escape , no matter how hard she tries, Aileana is tortured to the point of delusion. 

When she cannot take it any longer, she is saved by the last person she can think of and she enters a destroyed Edinburgh that is on a shaky truce with the Fae. 

As a Falconer, Aileana has the power to save both the Fae and human world, but she would have to awaken the powers that could cost her life. 

Book one was my beloved treasure in 2014. Don’t believe me? Check the review here. I was too hyped to get the opportunity to read book two when it came out. Also that cover is too perfect. However, I was disappointed.

Was Aileana always so selfish? How is it that you can stick your nose up to the fae that have decided to save your behind as well as your family’s behind? In the first book it was very clear that she hated the fae but not only did you fall in love with a powerful fae,  her best friend is fae.

The fae saved your life and yet you hate the fact that they have allowed you to live in their city and have provided you protection. It didn’t make sense. Aileana has every reason to be upset however she has this entitled mentality as if her mission wasn’t to destroy fae good and bad.

Beyond that the story was dragged out. There was a lot of something is about to happen but then nothing happens going on. It was frustrating and disappointing because the first book was so well written.

I did enjoy the romance in the novel it wasn’t too over done but it did make Aileana look like a hypocrite. I also really enjoyed the details the author put in the setting and the surrounding characters; it reminded me of why I enjoy this author and it made it even harder to not roll my eyes while reading this book.

When the pace picked up and when it got back to what I remember, it was almost too late for me to enjoy it. Despite my unhappiness with this book, I need to see how it ends. I need to see the growth in Aileana. I need to see her beyond her desire to kill something and fight. I need to feel a passion for something other than her ever growing need for revenge.

So yeah, I am going to read the third book despite the horrible rating this book got.

1 Pickle

Book Review: Li Jun and the Iron Road by Anne Tait with Paulette Bourgeois

Dundurn Group  Published Sept. 30, 2015 216 Pages
Dundurn Group
Published Sept. 30, 2015
216 Pages

Adapted from award winning TV series “Iron Road”

When her mother dies Li Jun decides that she will take control of her fate and look for her father at the Golden Mountain, a place Chinese workers go to find their reaches. But it isn’t easy for a woman to go across the ocean to Canada; so she disguises herself as a man named Little Tiger and works at a fireworks factory, until she has the means to go. 

But when she finally gets her wish and enters a forbidden love, her fate takes a different turn.

As per Goodreads, this is supposed to be a so-so bad book.  But it wasn’t that bad. I enjoyed it. Yes, it did have issues, quite a bit but the premise of the story was completely hard to miss.

Here is the thing: the book should have been longer; it should have been way longer. There wasn’t enough passion, fight or even love in this story. It was extremely way too much to the point and predictable.

Little Tiger didn’t have much personality other than the fact that she was willing to do what it took to get to Canada and to find her father. I liked the determination about her but there was nothing else to her. It made her stale and unappealing.

The beginning of the book was perfect because I originally though the romance would take between someone that is introduced within the first chapter and with her switching identities it and add the drama of finding her father in it . . . it would have been perfect Yes, it would have still been predictable but not as predictable and more exciting.

The romance had less fizz than a day old soda left open. It was fake and un-fulfilling. Little Tiger and the man she falls for really had no passion nor love. It wasn’t developed. It wasn’t there one chapter and then it happened in the next.  I rolled my eyes so much it hurt.

These are key issues for me to completely dislike this book, however I got sucked into the story and I strongly believe it was because of the historical factors in the book. I’m a sucker for history and it would have been the perfect read if there was more history, action and fire.

Despite the bad ratings people have been giving this read,  I liked the book and I hope the author would revisit it. I’m curious to know how the mini series is.


3 Pickles