July 21, 2014

Blade of the Samurai by Susan Spann: Book Tour and a GIVEAWAY!

I didn't like Blade of the Samurai at first. I was reading it on my phone, and I didn't realize there was a glossary at the back, so I was like, "Shinobi? What?" And I kept getting distracted from the plot by the Japanese words and customs that were being explained.

But after about 2-3 chapters, I got a feel for the tone and characters, and then I started really enjoying the setting. It's clear that Susan Spann has heavily researched feudal Japan, and she manages to disseminate a lot of information, which makes the mystery more interesting.

Matsui Hiro is an undercover shinobi (ninja), who has been hired to protect Father Mateo, a Jesuit Portuguese priest. Hiro and Father Mateo previously solved a murder, so when a samurai is found stabbed to death at the Shogunate, Hiro and Father Mateo are called in to find out who killed Ashikaga Saburo. Saburo was a high-ranking official, so Hiro and Father Mateo must interact with everyone from the noble Ashikaga family and assorted Shogunate officials, to the servants at the Shogunate, and men at a local tavern who may have unknowingly encountered the killer.

Hiro crisscrosses Kyoto multiple times in his attempts to find out the truth: because he knows that if they don't meet the Shogun's three day deadline to catch the killer, then it will be his own neck on the line.

If you're looking for a light mystery with a lot of fascinating cultural tidbits, then Blade of the Samurai is the perfect book for you!

Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Should I recommend this to my grandma? Sure!

TLC Book Tours provided me a copy of the book to read, and they want to give one of you a copy too! To enter to win a hard copy or an e-book version (Nook or Kindle), leave a comment on this post, telling me which version you'd prefer AND if you'd like to travel back in time to feudal Japan or not. (Just trying to weed out the spammers here and see who actually pays attention to the entry rules!) US addresses only please, comments will be open until 7/28/14.

July 18, 2014

Around the World in Six Books: Mini-Reviews

In my attempt to remedy the #bookwormproblems I shared earlier this month, I've been trying to read books set in more unusual locations than England. Here are six of the books I've read this month!
  1. Strange Shores* (Iceland) :: Inspector Erlendur is vacationing in his isolated childhood village in the eastern part of Iceland, and becomes obsessed with the story of a woman who vanished into a blizzard 60 years earlier. Not my favorite from Arnaldur Indridason (I missed all the normal side characters from Erlendur's normal life in Reykjavik), but it was still enjoyable.  Rating: 3 out of 5
  2. In The Company Of Cheerful Ladies (Botswana) :: Precious Ramotswe and Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni have been married for a few months now. Mma Ramotswe is investigating a Zambian thief and Mr. Matekoni is having trouble with his apprentices. Light and enjoyable just like the rest of the series.  Rating: 4 out of 5
  3. Ruin and Rising (Ravka, a country much like Imperial Russia) :: It's time for Alina to use her Sun Summoning powers to save Ravka from the Darkling. She and her childhood friend Mal and a band of fellow Grisha (magicians), are on a quest to find an amplifier to strengthen her power so that they can return Prince Nikolai to his throne (which the Darkling stole). I liked this one, although I was kind of hoping the love triangle (love rhombus?) would end differently. Rating: 4 out of 5
  4. Blade of the Samurai (feudal Japan) :: More on this one on Monday. Come back for my full review (and a giveaway!).
  5. The Lost Hero (Camp Half-Blood, New York) :: This one is set in various locations across the US too, as three teenage demi-gods: Jason, Piper, and Leo, set out to save Hera, who is being held captive. The gods have shut themselves up in Mt. Olympus, so the kids are on their own as they battle evil storm spirits and cyclopes and giants. I missed Percy Jackson, but I hear he's back in book 2 of this series! Rating: 4 out of 5
  6. The Long Way Home* (Quebec) :: Chief Inspector Gamache has retired, but when his friend Clara asks him to help find her missing husband, Gamache is obliged to go searching across Quebec with her. I've listened to most of this series on audiobook - but I read an advance copy of this one. Maybe that's why I didn't like it as well as I usually like Louise Penny's books? Rating: 3 out of 5
What places have YOU been visiting? (Via book, or in real life!)

This post contains my affiliate links. The starred titles are to review for Shelf Awareness - so they haven't actually been published yet.

July 16, 2014

When Can You Say You Don't Like an Author?

Recently I was talking to someone and they said that they "don't like Shakespeare". I basically proceeded to make this face.

I know that person tends to not like things with sad endings, so I was like, "Ok, I get why you don't like the tragedies. But the rest?? How can you say you "don't like Shakespeare"?!"

They said they thought they'd read eight plays, including Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, and The Merchant of Venice, but they didn't really like any of them.

Later, while I was musing over this conversation, still bewildered by how someone could dislike Hamlet (HAMLET!!); I started thinking, well, when is it ok to say you don't like an author? How much of an author's oeuvre do you need to read before you can make such a judgment?

If you've only read eight of Shakespeare's 40ish plays, can you make such a sweeping statement about liking or disliking him? That's about 20%, which doesn't seem like enough to make an accurate decision; but I've read less of other authors, and decided that I didn't like them. 

For example: David Baldacci has written 27 books. I read one, and thought it was terrible. So I'm judging David Baldacci based on less than 3% of his writing. (You could argue that all of his books are thrillers, so reading one thriller gives you a pretty good idea of what the rest will be like, and Shakespeare wrote across many genres, but still.)

At some point we all have to quit reading certain authors, or decide that we prefer other authors, because we can't read everything. I guess it's fair enough to say that you don't like Shakespeare if you've read* several of his plays and didn't like them. 

But maybe I need to give David Baldacci another chance? 

When would YOU say you don't like an author?

*Although, my quibble is that his plays weren't meant to be read. They were meant to be seen! I feel like you can't see a theatrical or movie production of Shakespeare without realizing the genius.