Thursday, February 22, 2024

Book Review: Kiyo Sato: From a WWII Japanese Internment Camp to a Life of Service by Connie Goldsmith with Kiyo Sato


Kiyo Sato: From a WWII Japanese Interment Camp to a Life of Service     

Author: Connie Goldsmith with Kiyo Sato

Publisher: Twenty-First Century Books

American release date: September 1, 2020

Format/Genre/Length: Hardback/Historical Biography/136 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★


December 7, 1941 was a traumatic occasion for all Americans, with the bombing of Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, but especially for those Americans of Japanese heritage. The government, in its overly suspicious infinite wisdom, decided the best thing to do in order to avoid having subversives inside the country, was to round up these citizens and send them to places where they could be closely guarded. For the safety of the nation.

Kiyo Sato was one of nine children of Shinji and Tomomi Sato. Her parents came from Japan and started not only a farm, but a family, in the Sacramento area.  President Franklin Roosevelt signed two executive orders in 1942, ordering the internment of the Japanese Americans on the West Coast.  Perhaps the reasoning was that they were closer to Japan and more likely to be spies. The Satos were sent to a camp in Poston, Arizona. This is their story, as related by Kiyo Sato, the oldest of the nine siblings, to Connie Goldsmith.

Looking back from a great distance, it sems inconceivable that American citizens could be treated this way simply because of their heritage. Many of them had never even been to Japan and couldn’t speak Japanese. Because they had to leave most everything behind, many of them lost their homes, their livelihoods and most of what they owned, including beloved pets. They were only permitted to bring one suitcase per person. One internment camp was an abandoned racetrack, where people slept in the former horse stalls under very unsanitary conditions.

This is a heartbreaking story, and yet it’s also a story of hope and resilience of spirit, and how one family endured and thrived.  The Japanese have a saying: shikata ga nai – accept what cannot be changed. However, it is appalling to me that this ever happened, and year s later the courts agreed that there was no need for this to take place.  The survivors were awarded reparations, but no amount could change what happened or give them that time back. This country should be ashamed of having their version of the German concentration camps, call them what you will. Hard to take the high moral ground after that.

I am privileged to know the niece of Kiyo Sato, Pamela Sato, who is the person who told me about the book. I think all Americans should know what their country is/was capable of – think Guantanamo Bay. I highly recommend this book. Also, Kiyo wrote a book in her own words, Kiyo’s Story, which I intend to read.


Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Wednesday Briefs: Dracula #4 (2.0)

 Good morning and Happy Hump Day! If it's Wednesday, then it must be time for more flash fiction from the Wednesday Briefers! We're a group of authors who bring you our finest flash fiction every week, 500 to 1000 words, inspired by one of our prompts.

Dracula has a date to keep in the village! See what's happening in this week's chapter of Dracula. Don't forget to visit the other Briefers and see what's up with them. Their links follow my tale! Enjoy!

Dracula #4 (2.0)

A midnight breeze blew warm across the Carpathians, carrying the familiar scent of Norway spruce and Scots pine to the lone figure making his solitary way down the mountain toward the village below. Dracula loved the night above all other times. He felt that darkness possessed a certain serenity not to be found during the daylight hours. A peace of mind that was lacking beneath the sun’s fierce rays. He drew strength from the night and preferred the solitude of his castle to the cacophony of human life. Of course, his predilection for human blood demanded that he exercise extreme caution in its acquisition, especially so close to home. Unfortunately, at times of pecuniary necessity, a certain amount of social interaction was required of him. But sometimes, as was the case tonight, a clandestine rendezvous was simply a matter of pleasure.

He could have had Avram drive him to Bistritz in a carriage… if he still possessed one, which he currently did not. The previous carriage had been very ornate and surprisingly comfortable, and Dracula had enjoyed driving it down the mountain in the dead of night at breakneck speeds calculated to test the courage of any passenger, had there been one, Avram clinging precariously to the driver’s box beside him. But Avram had found it prudent to sell that vehicle along with most of the magnificent stallions that had drawn it. He claimed the expenditure on their upkeep was an unnecessary drain on their limited resources and they could utilize other forms of transportation when they went abroad. The vampire couldn’t argue with such logic, as he disliked concerning himself with such mundane matters. Someday, Dracula swore, he would have another coach, the finest that money could buy. But alas, when there is little money, one must… economize, as Avram liked to remind him. Far too often, for his taste.

Apparently Avram had read some such nonsense in a book he had recently acquired (interesting how money was found for such a purchase). He tried to explain to Dracula what the author—what was his name? Oh yes, Adam Smith—wrote concerning the subject of economics. But Dracula found the entire matter to be very dull and he didn’t bother to retain anything he was told. However, he did understand the necessity to raise more money when existing funds grew low in order that he be maintained in the lifestyle to which he would like to stay accustomed. After all, he was going to live a long and richly wonderful life. No reason to live it in poverty.

He left the one horse that remained of the set he’d previously possessed for Aram’s use. Being merely human, Avram didn’t possess the same abilities his master did. Dracula had vampiric strength and speed and could travel quite easily from the castle to the village. Not that he did so very often. Avram had convinced him that dining on the villagers would, in the end, not be in either of their best interests. Dracula reluctantly saw his point and agreed to hold himself in check—providing that his very reliable factotum, i.e. Avram, saw to all his culinary needs. Liquid, that is. While he could and did eat human food on occasion, it did not provide him with what he required to survive. How Avram acquired blood was up to him, and Dracula asked no questions.

But Dracula also had other needs that blood would not suffice to meet. So sometimes he found himself going to the village for a little bit of fun.

Bistritz had originally been settled by Saxon immigrants, well before Dracula was born. Through the years, many Germans made the village their home, as well as a number of Romanians and Hungarians. At one time, there had been a good-sized Jewish community, but that had been largely decimated through ignorance and prejudice and mindless acts of violence. Many of those who were not killed were either forcibly converted to the Orthodox Church or they chose to leave for more hospitable environs. Unfortunately, Avram’s family had been among those who did not survive the persecution. In these current times, however, anti-Semitism had receded, which made it easier for Avram to conduct business in the village. He got along well with most everyone he met. Dracula knew he spent some of his evenings there, at times when they were not traveling abroad, and considered these to be diplomatic excursions that would benefit them both. His own expeditions into the village tended to be stealthier… and more seductive.

Dracula was well aware that Doina was a married woman, and that her husband was the rather well-muscled village blacksmith. But she was a pretty thing, and Dracula enjoyed her… company. Unbeknownst to Avram, he also liked to sip her blood. Not enough to harm her or turn her, for that would serve no useful purpose. But a little drink after sex never hurt anyone. To keep her from remembering, and possibly spreading the information to those who might not take it well, he clouded her mind a little, just enough to forget the bloodletting while remembering what a wonderful lover he truly was.

When he’d first decided to bed her, the question of where they should do so was of major concern. He firmly rejected her first suggestions, not willing to lower himself to using the filthy earth for their assignations and unwilling to take a room at the inn. The first was injurious to his delicate sensibilities, while the latter ran the risk of their being seen by too many people, some of whom might just inform Bogdan, her husband. Naturally, her home was similarly out of bounds, although a tempting and cheaper solution. But then he had a truly marvelous idea, one which was deliciously wicked and fun.

The church.

 to be continued

Don't forget to visit the other Briefers and see what's up with them!

Cia Nordwell

J Ray Lamb

Saturday, February 17, 2024

Saturday is Horror Day #153 - Lake Bodom, Marrowbone

 Lake Bodom

Atte (Santeri Helinheimo Mantyla) is a young man who is obsessed with his country's greatest unsolved mysteries - the fate of four young campers who were brutally knifed while sleeping in a tent on the shore of Lake Bodom. Only one person survived the onslaught, and he was in no condition to remember what happened. Many years have passed since then. Atte and his friend Elias (Mikael Gabriel) persuade two girls who are friends of theirs and attend the same school, Ida (Nelly Hirst-Gee) and Nora (Mimosa Willamo) to come camping with them. But they never mention they are going camp on the very shore of Lake Bodom.

Ida is not doing well, having become the target of scorn by her fellow students for nude pictures of her 

that have been circulating. She thinks maybe Elias is the person who took those pics, but she has no proof.  That doesn't keep her from going off alone with him, leaving Ida and Atte in the tent. Suddenly, someone grabs them through the tent. Atte goes to investigate, but he is stabbed. Nora and Elias come running back, but it is too late. Now the three survivors can only run and escape whoever has targeted them.

Inspired by but not based on the Lake Bodom murders, this is a well-done, and very chilling horror/mystery. Everything seems fairly normal at the beginning, until it's not. From then on, things go downhill fast. I never saw the twists and turns coming. It keeps you guessing until the end, and even then, one can't be sure. Well worth the watch, I recommend seeing this. I'll give this Film between 4 and 4.5 Stars.


A mother (Nicola Harrison) flees England with her four children to America to have a new life. But sometimes fate is cruel and the mother dies from illness. But not before she tells her oldest son, Jack (George MacKay) to keep her death secret until he turns twenty-one, for fear of the family being broken up by child welfare. As if that wasn't bad enough, there is something sinister in that huge house. The three older children tell young Sam (Matthew Stagg) that he is hearing the screams of a ghost, and that is also why they keep the mirrors covered. 

Jack, Billy (Charlie Heaton) and Jane (Mia Goth) have a friend in Allie (Anya Taylor-Joy), although she 

is not privy to their secret. She and Jack are especially close. But when a lawyer named Porter (Kyle Soller) arrives at the library where she works, it turns out he is sweet on her himself and none too pleased with Jack's presence. However, he learns something he thinks can benefit him financially and he isn't afraid to use it.

I thought this was a very well written, acted, and directed film, with twists and turns you wouldn't expect before the truth is arrived at. You might remember Charlie Heaton as Jonathan from Stranger Things, and Kyle Soller from Andor. The little boy who plays Sam is terrific. It's scary, spine-tingling, and also sad. If you haven't heard of it, I would definitely place Marrowbone on your radar, it's well worth the watch. I'll give this film 4.5 Stars

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Wednesday Briefs: Dracula #3 (1.2)

 Good morning and Happy Hump Day! If it's Wednesday, then it must be time for more flash fiction from the Wednesday Briefers! We're a group of authors who bring you our finest flash fiction every week, 500 to 1000 words, inspired by one of our prompts.

As Dracula prepares to go out, Avram is clearly uneasy, but what can he do? Maybe things will work out well. See what's happening in this week's chapter of Dracula. Don't forget to visit the other Briefers and see what's up with them. Their links follow my tale. Enjoy!

Dracula #3 (1.2)

“Ah, but what does that even mean? The definition of a sinner lies in the eyes of the beholder,” Avram responded, playing devil’s advocate. “Some might even say you are more sinned against than sinning.” He smoothed out a small wrinkle in the vampire’s mauve coat, then glanced up into the mirror. Their gazes locked in the reflection, Avram’s warm brown eyes meeting his master’s hazel orbs. “They say vampires have no soul and therefore cannot see their image in a mirror. But clearly that is not the case.” Avram stepped back to take in his master in his entirety and was satisfied with what he saw. “But are they sinners? That question is open to debate.”

“Then perhaps I am evil.” The Count laughed as he spun about in a playful pirouette. His long wavy hair swayed with his movement. It flowed down his back, tied with a leather queue fastened by an intricately carved ivory hairpin. When caught by the sunlight, his glossy tresses appeared to possess blue undertones, but that was merely a trick of the sun’s rays. At night, his locks seemed to sparkle, much like their owner.

“Evil is relative, Nico,” Avram replied, the nickname springing from his lips with practiced ease. Admittedly, their relationship was a complicated one, unintelligible to outsiders. More than a mere servant, Avram was often a confidante to the vampire, as well as the voice of reason. A co-conspirator in their life journey, such as it was. He also managed their finances and did his best to save the nobleman from his extravagances.  And as many foolish decisions as he could, although he was not always successful in that regard. “As Exodus tells us, sometimes it matters whose ox is being gored. Should I explain to you this allegory?”

Dracula rolled his eyes. “I stopped believing in that book a long time ago. And no, I understand what it means.”

Avram removed the stopper from an elaborately decorated glass bottle, bought during their last visit to Paris, and handed it to the Count. He poured some of the fragrant oil into one hand and used one slender finger to dab it at various points of his body—behind both ears, at the base of his throat, and on the inside of each wrist. Notes of bergamot filled the air, along with something a little muskier.

“You know, Avram, I remember reading some years ago a sermon that had been written by one of the colonists in America. I forget his name or which religion he represented, but I remember his words. He basically said that we are all sinners, dangling like a spider from the hand of the all-powerful, angry God, and that it was at his forbearance we are suffered to live. Furthermore, he has the power to cut those strings and cast us down into the flames at any time. For any reason or for no reason whatsoever, at his discretion.”

“Such a delightful image,” Avram quipped. “I’m glad my people don’t really believe in the concept of Hell. Sounds like a horrible place.”

Dracula made no immediate response. Sensing a change in his demeanor, Avram replaced the perfume where it belonged, then dared a glance at him. No longer smiling, his handsome face seemed peaceful enough. But Avram knew better. He sensed storm clouds brewing beneath the deceptively calm exterior, as if he had inadvertently touched a nerve, or reopened an old wound.

“I may not believe in God,” the vampire said quietly, “but I hope there is a place like Hell. Some people deserve such a Fate.”

Wishing he could recall his ill-chosen words, Avram could only imagine which people his master was referring to, and he had to agree with his statement. They both fell silent.

Suddenly, Dracula withdrew his skeletonized pocket watch from its resting place within his coat and glanced at the face. Avram was well familiar with this device. It was unique in that where most watches in the vogue were elaborately decorated and engraved, this one was styled in such a way as to view the working mechanisms of the timepiece itself.

Another expensive bauble. But at least this one served a useful purpose. And could probably be sold for a goodly sum, should that ever become a necessity. Although how he would be able to wrest the object from the grasp of its rather strong owner was a matter for another day. One that would hopefully never come.

“One must not keep a beautiful woman waiting, Avram.” The potential storm had passed. Dracula was once again in high spirits, no doubt in anticipation of the carnal delights awaiting him in the village below. Avram was less sanguine.

“As you wish, milord.” No sense in arguing. All he could do now was monitor the situation as well as he could. Which meant spending time in the same dreary alehouse where the unwittingly cuckolded blacksmith could be found.

to be continued

Now go see what the other Briefers are up to!

Cia Nordwell

J Ray Lamb






Monday, February 12, 2024

Book Review: Ana Maria and the Fox (The Luna Sisters) by Liana de la Rosa


Ana Maria and The Fox (The Luna Sisters)    

Author: Liana De la Rosa

Publisher: Berkley

American release date: April 4, 2023

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/Mulicultural & Interracial Romance/352 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★


The French occupation of Mexico as ordered by Napoleon III -  a pale imitation of famous uncle -  has been disastrous The United States is in no position to enforce the Monroe Doctrine, caught up as they are in their own Civil War. Outside help is crucial to provide aid to the Mexicans, under the leadership of Juarez. To the end, the three Luna sisters – Ana Maria, Gabriela, and Isabela, have been sent to London on a mission of diplomacy, representing their country in the hopes of eliciting assistance from the English. However, they do not reveal everything about themselves, including their relationship to the Mexican rebels.

Ana Maria and her sisters have not been close, more antagonists than friends. The journey across the Atlantic was not without its challenges. But in London, Ana Maria finds a freedom she could never have under the tight reins of her domineering father. And she has never truly appreciated her sisters for the individuals that they are.

Gideon Fox is the grandson of a woman who escaped slavery in America, cross the Atlantic and married a Scotsman. Gideon has always had his eye on the prize – the ending of the abhorrent institution of slavery. By dint of hard work, he has become a member of Parliament and is working to abolish the Atlantic slave trade. Despite being greatly attracted to Ana Maria when they meet, he cannot afford to let his feelings interfere with his purpose. At least not until, danger threatens Ana Maria, and Gideon has to make a difficult choice. Or maybe his choice isn’t so difficult, after all.

This is my first book by this author, but it won’t be my last. I especially am looking forward to the next book in the series. She writes very well, bringing all her characters to life while painting a portrait of 1860s Victorian London.  She has clearly done her research, and it shows. The historical details are amazing. My only quibble is the appearance of Prince Albert, as the Prince Regent died in 1861 and the book takes place in 1863.

The romance between Ana Maria and Gideon is breathtaking, and the action toward the end had me on the edge of my seat, feverishly turning the pages. The cover by Tiffany Estreicher is beautiful. I highly recommend this book and look forward to the next volume of The Luna Sisters.

Saturday, February 10, 2024

Saturday is Horror Day #152 - The Keeping Hours, Silent Night Deadly Night 5: The Toymaker

 The Keeping Hours

Mark (Lee Pace) and Elizabeth (Carrie Coon) are a loving, laid-back with a son named Jacob (Sander Thomas) whom they both adore. But tragedy strikes and Jacob is taken from them. The couple fall apart and divorce. Years later, Elizabeth has remarried and is a stepmother to two daughters who she loves, while Mark is single and a successful lawyer. He still owns the house where they once lived, and rents it out. After a pair of tenants trash the place, he goes there to clean it up, and encounters something he totally didn't expect to see - his dead son. Except he doesn't look dead. And he hasn't aged a day since he died. A startled Mark runs to tell Elizabeth about this, although they have nor relationship any more. At first, she is furious and refuses to listen, but gradually, she comes around. How is this happening...and why?

While the Keeping Hours is a ghost story, it isn't necessarily one in the traditional sense in that it isn't 

spooky or horrifying. Rather it's evocative and emotional. It's a story of loss and love, but also of forgiveness. I was really moved by this film. I have to say I am a huge Lee Pace fan, and he is terrific in this. So is everyone else, including the young boy playing Jacob. I am including it here both because it is a ghost story but also because I don't feel enough people know about it, which is a shame.

I will give this film 4 Stars

Silent Night, Deadly Night 5: The Toymaker

Derek (William Thorne) is a little boy whose world goes silent when he witnesses his father being killed by a toy that mysteriously arrived at the house on Christmas Eve. His mother Sarah (Jane Higginson) is trying to help her son while dealing with the loss of his father. She takes him to a local toy store owned by a toymaker named Joe Petto (Mickey Rooney), but there is something odd about Petto and his strange son Pino (Brian Bremer). And then there is a mysterious guy who hangs around both the toy store and the Quinn home. What does he want?

I'll start by saying that the fifth installment in the Silent Night Deadly Night series is better than the one before, but honestly, that's not hard to be. Again, it doesn't have the Santa Killer theme, but t does have a sort of horror take on Pinocchio and Gepetto.. Clint Howard returns as Ricky, and his only scene involves him and the mysterious lurker, who are both seasonal Santas. If you didn't look at the credits, you'd have no idea he was playing Ricky, and one wonders why bother. I guess to preserve the somewhat shaky continuity. Also, how did they talk Mickey Rooney into doing this film? One has to wonder.


The acting is still pretty lousy and so is the writing and plot. Wait until you find out who the mysterious stranger is and how quickly he is accepted into their lives. Seriously? The good news is that this is the last in the series, as the next one is actually a reboot of the first film. I have requested that. Also, I hear that another film is going to be made. I assume that it's part of the reboot, not the original franchise.

I'll give this film 1.5 Stars.

Wednesday, February 7, 2024

Wednesday Briefs: Dracula #2 (1.1)

 Good morning and Happy Hump Day! If it's Wednesday, then it must be time for more flash fiction from the Wednesday Briefers! We're a group of authors who bring you our finest flash fiction every week, 500 to 1000 words, inspired by one of our prompts.

I started a new story last week, it continues. Right now, it's Dracula and Avram. See what's happening in this week's chapter of Dracula. Like I said, working title. If anyone comes up with an idea for a real title, I'm open to suggestion lol  Don't forget to visit the other Briefers and see what's up with them. Their links follow my tale! Enjoy!

Dracula #2 (1.1)

Being a fastidious man, the Count—or Nico, as he was known to his more intimate acquaintances—insisted on bathing prior to any evening’s activities. His porcelain-coated cast iron tub was the only one in that region and had been imported many years before, at great expense, from China. He loved to immerse himself in the warmest water Avram could provide, as he found it to be a panacea for his poor circulation. The Count was unique in his desire for personal cleanliness as bathing was not exactly held in high regard by most people.  Members of the upper class seldom bathed and only occasionally washed their faces and hands, while the lower class limited their acquaintance with water to a scant few times a year.  This was but one reason why the Count enjoyed great popularity among ladies of all stations and in many countries. They appreciated his attention to hygiene and delighted in the variety of scents he used on a regular basis at a time when many people wore perfumes merely to mask offensive body odor. As for Avram, he liked to avail himself of the master’s tub during the master’s absence, being very particular himself when it came to cleanliness. As a Jewish man, it was not a choice—it was a commandment.

Once Dracula had eased himself into the blessedly warm water, Avram handed him a soft sea sponge and an irregularly shaped pale orange wash ball. Coriander provided an almost earthy citrus scent, augmented by hints of vanilla and cloves.  Dracula inhaled the ball appreciatively before he began to apply it to his body.

“Would milord perhaps wish to enjoy a game of cribbage tonight?” Avram ventured.

Dracula gave him a pointed look from beneath arched eyebrows. “Did you seriously think I have nothing better to do than engage in a card game with you?”

‘Of course not, milord. Merely a suggestion.”

Avram hadn’t thought his ruse would work, despite the fact that they often did play cards together of an evening, but neither was he offended at his master’s words. He’d been in service to him for too long not to know better. Besides, there were times when he was able to turn his attention by such methods, but alas, tonight was not going to be one of those nights. Avram was only too well aware of his master’s destination this evening, despite his pretense to the contrary, for the Count was never reluctant to discuss his love life, such as it was. Perhaps love was not the right word to be used in regard to his sexual conquests—male or female— for that particular emotion was never involved, at least not on the part of Dracula, although such could not always be said for his partners. Perhaps more direct tactics were called for.

“Do you think it’s wise to continue this dalliance with the blacksmith’s wife?” Avram attempted to be more diplomatic than crude. This particular obsession had been going on for nearly two months now. At least six weeks too long by Avram’s calculations. Not to mention, too close to home. A situation exacerbated by the blacksmith being well-known throughout the village for his nasty temper. The only reason Dracula had not encountered said bad temper heretofore was because the blacksmith was considered by most to be what Avram would term a schlemiel. Not only did he not have a clue as to what his wife was up to while he was occupied in filling his belly with beer at the local alehouse, he also didn’t have the sense to fear Count Dracula, despite the many stories in circulation about him. None of them good. Avram also knew Dracula had no fear of the man, either, for obvious reasons. Still, getting into an altercation with him would not be good for either of their well-being. Not if they wished to live a peaceful life without constant fear of revolting peasants. Dracula was what he was, without a doubt, but he was not invincible, and neither was Avram.

The Count didn’t answer Avram’s question immediately, rising from the tub instead. Understanding the unspoken command, Avram took up a pewter pitcher filled with pleasantly warm water and rinsed the soap from the vampire’s body, back and front, head to toe. Once that was done, he took a pestamel—a long looped strip of cotton that had been acquired during a trip to the Ottoman Turkish Empire—and dried his master’s body and hair. The cloth, which was also sometimes made of linen or bamboo, was becoming popular outside of Turkey. Some referred to these as bath towels.

Dracula stepped from the tub, onto a small soft blue rug and stood there patiently as Avram assisted him to dress in his chosen garb. At last, he spoke. “You worry too much, Avram. She is a diversion, nothing more. A pleasant way to pass the time.”

But will her husband understand that?  Avram reluctantly held his tongue and followed his master back into his bedchamber. He realized that arguing with him, especially when he was in such a sanguine mood, would be as productive as rabbit hunting with a dead ferret—at the end of the day, the ferret would still be dead, and the rabbit would remain free to carry on with its life.

Dracula paused to examine his reflection in the very expensive Venetian mirror he preferred to those made by the English. He twisted and turned, as if to ensure he looked good from every angle.

No wonder we are hard-pressed for money, with such foolish purchases.

“Avram, I am considering ordering ano—”

“Not at the present time, I’m afraid,” Avram said firmly.

Dracula turned toward his servant and sighed. “So it’s like that, is it?”

“It is. Not to mention, one mirror suffices, does it not? You are only one person. And is not vanity a sin?”

Dracula’s lips twitched in a brief smile. “Then consider me a sinner.”

 to be continued

Now go see what's up with the other Briefers!

Cia Nordwell

J Ray Lamb