Aug 11, 2014

Book Review: Blade of the Samurai by Susan Spann

Blade of the Samurai
Blade of the Samurai: A Shinobi Mystery by Susan Spann
Published July 15, 2014; Minotaur
Genre: historical mystery
When they had almost reached the end of the block Hiro asked, "Did you think I wouldn't reveal you as the murderer? Or did you just think yourself too smart to be caught?"
"I did not kill Saburo," Kazu muttered through clenched teeth. "I swear it on my honor." (ch. 25)
The second book in the series, a stand alone mystery novel, begins much as the first, Claws of the Cat. Master ninja Hiro Hattori and Father Mateo, the Portuguese priest he is sworn to protect, in sixteenth century Kyoto, are called on by the shogun to solve a murder, which they must do or forfeit their own lives.

In Blade of the Samurai, Hiro suspects his own kinsman, Kazu, of the death of Saburo, who was killed with Kazu's own sword in the shogun's palace. Politics is heavily involved, Hiro surmises, as there are opposing clans and groups plotting to overthrow the shogun. But who exactly are the guilty parties in this case, among so many potential suspects?

I enjoyed this second book as much as the first - the unusual main characters - a ninja (shinobi) investigator and a Portuguese Jesuit priest, the historical setting, the involved customs and politics of sixteenth century Japan, the role of women, and the code of the samurai and the ninja. Also intriguing are how Hiro and Father Mateo go about their investigation, the people they interview, and the clues they put together to arrive at the surprising conclusion. Well written and plotted, this is an exciting new series for me!

Susan Spann is a transactional publishing attorney and the author of the Shinobi Mysteries, featuring ninja detective Hiro Hattori and his Portuguese Jesuit sidekick, Father Mateo. CLAWS OF THE CAT was named a Library Journal Mystery Debut of the Month. Susan has a degree in Asian Studies and her hobbies include cooking, traditional archery, martial arts, and horseback riding. She lives in northern California with her husband, son, two cats, and an aquarium full of seahorses. Visit her website.

Thanks to TLC Book Tours and the author for a review copy of this book.
 For other reviews, check the book tour schedule.
GIVEAWAY: The publisher is offering an ebook or a hardcover copy of The Blade of the Samurai. Please leave a comment here or via email to Winner will be chosen at random on August 16 and notified by email. U.S. and Canada only, please.
UPDATE: Congrats to Barbara Z, the winner of the giveaway. 

Aug 10, 2014

It's Monday: What Are You Reading?

Visit It's Monday: What Are You Reading hosted by Book Journey, and Mailbox Monday each week to see what's new on readers' bookshelves.

The Good Dog
Storm Surge
Us: a Novel
Click on the blue titles under the book covers for the book descriptions.

Which of these would you open first?

Aug 7, 2014

Book Review: The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo

The Ghost Bride
Title: The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo
Published August 5, 2014; William Morrow Paperbacks
Genre: historical fiction, fantasy
"Tell you what," said Fan. " If you wish to go to the Plains of the Dead, I'll show you the way. For a price." (ch. 13)
The plot: A young Chinese woman, Li Lan, in colonial Malaya of 1893, is promised to the wealthy Lim family as a ghost bride for their dead son, so that he may still bring pride to his family.   However, the young woman is in love with the dead son's cousin, Tian Bai, who is very much alive.

She is distraught by the dead son's haunting her in her dreams and takes too much medicine by mistake, lapsing into a coma. Her spirit leaves her comatose body and enters a gate to the underworld, where she encounters the spirit of her dead mother in the Plains of Death. She also meets the ghost Fan, who is to play an important role in the outcome of her wanderings, and falls under the spell of a mysterious and handsome spirit, Er Lang. Er Lang enlists her help for a task in the underworld and later gives Li Lan the energy or qi she needs to stay connected and not to disappear completely from the physical and spiritual worlds.

I have perhaps given too much away about the plot, but be assured there is much more to the book than my brief synopsis.

My comments: I loved the imagination of the author who created this world of wandering spirits and ghosts, combining aspects of Buddhist philosophy of death, punishment, and reincarnation, with the Christian hell as seen in Dante's Inferno, and the Chinese traditional beliefs in the fate of the dead who are not buried and provided for in the afterlife by their living relatives.

Chinese mythology, Buddhist and faint echoes of Christian beliefs seem to mingle in this world that Li Lan wanders into and out of, with the help of other spirits. The plot also holds suspense, as Li Lan helps Er Lang to find evidence of wrongdoing among the underworld spirits, evidence to convict and detain them, depriving them of freedom in the underworld and freeing her from the haunting spirit of the dead son, her would-be ghost husband. I was also reminded of the Greek myth of Orpheus's visit to the underworld to bring back his dead wife, Eurydice.

Recommendation: If you love fantasy, adventure, a mystery, mythology, romance and magic, this is a book I would recommend wholeheartedly. My rating: 5 of 5 stars.

Visit the book's TLC tour schedule for other reviews.

Yangsze Choo is a fourth-generation Malaysian of Chinese descent. She lives in California with her husband and their two children, and loves to eat and read (often at the same time). The Ghost Bride was the Shirley Jackson Award Nominee for Best Novel (2013) and the Goodreads Choice Nominee for Fantasy (2013).

Connect with the author on Facebook or on her website

Thanks to TLC Book Tours and the publisher for a review copy of the book.

Aug 6, 2014

Groomed for Murder: A Pet Boutique Mystery by Annie Knox: Waiting on Wednesday

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Breaking the Spine. It spotlights upcoming releases that we are eagerly anticipating.
Groomed for Murder
I enjoyed the first in the Pet Boutique mystery series, Paws for Murder by Annie Knox, and am eagerly looking forward to reading the second in the series, a stand alone cozy, Groomed for Murder.

Publication date: September 2, 2014 by Signet.
Here is the goodreads book description. You can decide for yourself if this is a cozy you would wait for.
Izzy McHale wants her new Trendy Tails Pet Boutique in Merryville, Minnesota, to be the height of canine couture and feline fashions. Izzy is hard at work coordinating two special weddings at Trendy Tails. First, Izzy’s friend and mentor, Ingrid, will be tying the knot with her old flame. And a week later, Izzy will host “pupptials” for two lovable dogs.  
The Trendy Tails crew is intrigued by Daniel, an enigmatic writer boarding above the shop. Unfortunately, Daniel  drops dead at the altar on Ingrid’s wedding day. When Izzy's Aunt Dolly is found at the scene with the murder weapon, Izzy, her pals, and her scrappy pets, Packer and Jinx, have to find the real killer...
The pet boutique solves a crime as it preps for a doggie "wedding," holey moley!

Aug 4, 2014

Book Review: Billionaire Blend by Cleo Coyle

Teaser Tuesday is hosted by Miz B; choose two teaser sentences from your current read.
Billionaire Blend
How can it be? This club of the rich and powerful has been completely duped. Someone's passed off this dud of a bean as the Village Blend's signature Ambrosia, which it decidedly is not! Not even close! 
"Clare?" Eric said, obviously sensing my distress. 
Scene or not, I could not let this situation stand. "Please call the waiter back." (ch. 31)
Billionaire Blend by Cleo Coyle is the 13th Coffeehouse Mystery, a stand alone cozy with the coffee house theme. Set in Manhattan, the novels follow owners Clare Cosi and her ex-husband Matteo Allegro, along with Matteo's enigmatic mother, who are all co-owners of the successful coffee house, The Village Blend.

In this novel, Clare helps save the life of online game app and tech wizard, Eric Thorner, who is injured in her coffeehouse when a car bomb goes off outside, killing Eric's female chauffeur. Clare jets all over the world to exotic coffee growing locations in South America, Jamaica, Africa, and Asia, sampling coffee to find the right beans to create the Billionaire Blend, a blend Eric is planning to create and market exclusively to the very rich.

Clare's love interest, the detective Mike Quinn, helps with the solving of the car bombing and its link to Eric and his high tech businesses. Matchmaking for her daughter Joy is another concern for Clare, and the subplot takes on Clare's reuniting Joy with her true love.

Recommendations: I liked going on whirl wind trips around the globe with Clare and learning about different types of coffees and how they are grown and produced. The trips are never dull, the characters are always intriguing, and the plot does keep you on your toes, just like a cup of strong coffee. You can tell that Cleo Coyle is an experienced cozy writer as she takes you effortlessly into her world, in this case around the world with coffee. A five star rating, in my books.

Thanks to Berkley and Penguin for a review copy of this book, which will be released in paperback August 5, 2014. 

Aug 3, 2014

Sunday Salon: Reading In Spite of Lake Erie Water Disaster

Welcome to the Sunday Salon where bloggers share their reading each week.Visit The Sunday Post hosted by The Caffeinated Bookreviewer; Also visit It's Monday: What Are You Reading hosted by Book Journey, and Mailbox Monday each week.

We need a lot of heavy rain, winds, and lower temps to get rid of the toxic algae blooms in Lake Erie that are growing near the water intake for Lucas County, Ohio's water supply.
Our water advisory started early yesterday morning and we were told not to drink, cook, or brush teeth with the local water. Now they are saying those with compromised immune systems are advised to not even shower or bathe in the water. And washing clothes in cold water will still leave some of the toxins in the clothes. Of course, boiling the water will only increase the concentration of the toxin in the water.

We drove a hour south of the Great Lakes to find bottled water yesterday morning. There was a drain on bottled water in all the stores starting 2 a.m. Saturday, and by the time people woke up to the news on TV, water was very scarce. We found bottles in Lima, Ohio, thank heavens. By today, the local stores had trucked in millions of bottles of water so there is no shortage. And free water is being distributed at points around the city and county.

How long will this water emergency last? One can only hope not too long. The neon green algae can be seen from outer space, it's so dense. Not all of Lake Erie is affected, just our shallow portion of the lake, on its lower west. The algae blooms have not congregated on other sides of the lake, so Sandusky and Cleveland's water supplies are safe this time.

What's the point of being near the nation's greatest bodies of water, the Great Lakes, when they can become so polluted and toxic?

In any case, the reading of books goes on. I was absolutely delighted to get these two mystery novels in my mailbox.
Paw and Order
Paw and Order by Spencer Quinn is a stand alone novel in the Chet and Bernie mystery series with canine detective Chet and his human partner Bernie. I just love Chet the narrator and his doggie's point of view.

In the seventh book in the brilliant New York Times bestselling mystery series, canine narrator Chet and P.I. Bernie journey to Washington, DC, and the dog-eat-dog world of our nation's capital.

The Bone Seeker by M.J. McGrath is the third Edie Kiglatuk mystery in the series and is a stand alone novel.

 The intrepid Edie Kiglatuk discovers one of her female students dead in a toxic lake in her third arctic mystery...

Toxic lake?  That sounds familiar, but this lake is in the Arctic.

What are you reading this summer weekend? 

Aug 1, 2014

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman: Book Beginning

Visit Book Beginnings at Rose City Reader for other books chosen for this meme.

Title: A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
Published July 15, 2014; Atria Books

Book beginning: A Man Called Ove Buys a Computer That Is Not a Computer
Ove is fifty-nine.
He drives a Saab. He is the kind of man who points at people he doesn't like the look of, as if they were burglars and his forefinger a policeman's flashlight. He stands at the corner of  a shop where owners of Japanese cars come to purchased white cables. Ove eyes the sales assistant for a long time before shaking a medium-sized white box at him.
"So this is one of those O-Pads, is it?" he demands. 
Page 56: 
You miss the strangest things when you lose someone. Little things. Smiles. The way she turned over in her sleep. Even repainting a room for her.
Publisher description: "In this bestselling and delightfully quirky debut novel from Sweden, a grumpy yet loveable man finds his solitary world turned on its head when a boisterous young family moves in next door.

Meet Ove. Behind the cranky exterior there is a story and a sadness. So when one November morning a chatty young couple with two chatty young daughters move in next door and accidentally flatten Ove's mailbox, it is the lead-in to a comical and heartwarming tale of unkempt cats, unexpected friendship, and the ancient art of backing up a U-Haul. All of which will change one cranky old man and a local residents' association to their very foundations."

Would you keep reading the book based on the beginning and the excerpt?

Sunday Salon: Japanese Authors and a Mystery

  Klara and the Sun   by Kazuo Ishiguro.  Klara and the Sun was easy to read for a literary novel of such magnitude and celebrity, I found...