Category: Bout of Books

+Blog Book Tour+ Blade of the Samurai (Book 2 of the Shinobi Mystery series) by Susan Spann

Posted Monday, 1 September, 2014 by jorielov , , , , , , 4 Comments

Parajunkee Designs

Blade of the Samurai by Susan Spann

Published By: Minotaur Books (@MinotaurBooks), (a Thomas Donne book) 15 July, 2014
imprints of St. Martin’s Publishing Group, which is now a part of MacMillian Publishers
Official Author Websites: Site | @SusanSpann | Blog
Available Formats: Hardcover & Ebook Page Count: 304

Converse via: #ShinobiMystery#ShinobiMysteries OR #BladeOfTheSamurai


Katana

Acquired Book By:

I was selected to be a tour stop on the “Blade of the Samurai” virtual book tour through TLC Book Tours. I opted to receive the first novel of the Shinobi mystery series to formulate a better impression about where the series began and where the series is continuing in this sequel. I received a complimentary hardback copy of the “Blade of the Samurai” direct from the author Susan Spann, in exchange for an honest review. However, I received a complimentary hardback copy of “Claws of the Cat” without obligation to post a review or comment on its behalf. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein on either novel. I elected to post this review for my own edification as much as my enjoyment for the introduction to a new series I will be in full support of watching grow through successive installments!

Inspired to Read: 

I personally always have a preference of reading serial fiction in ‘order’ of the established series, and I can go to great lengths to sort out the order of series too! This is especially true for the Elm Creek series (by Jennifer Chiaverini) and the Aunt Dimity series (by Nancy Atherton)! When I first started to research this novel going on tour this Summer (referencing Blade), I discovered that it is the type of series where you could ‘side step’ from the opening bits of the series, but I had feeling you’d miss quite a heap in doing so! Therefore, I was instantly inspired to read Claws ahead of Blade, and thus took up the offer to receive Claws with Blade for the tour! I simply love having a good footing into the momentum of how the key characters interact, what motivates them, and how the series expands by relieving more of their internal natures as much as a clue into their outward lives outside of their investigations (especially for cosies!).

On my connection to Ms. Spann:

I started visiting the chats hosted by @LitChat in the latter months of 2013, as it was around the time of the conference at The Betsy in which I started to cross paths with regular chatters, amongst whom were Natalia Sylvester (début novelist of “Chasing the Sun”) and Susan Spann. I am unsure which month I first started to notice Ms. Spann as a friendly presence who always reminded me of myself — someone who provided cheerful commentary, engaging questions for each visiting guest author, and a wicked knowledge base on a variety of topics. Generally speaking, I always click-over to read a person’s Twitter profile, but whilst engaged in those #LitChat(s) I felt like it was this magical rendezvous for the bookish and those who are attuned to bookish culture.

In this way, it wasn’t until I learnt of Blade of the Samurai was going on tour through TLC Book Tours (the touring company I am hosting for this Interview & my forthcoming book review) I had decided to discover a bit more about her! In so doing, I learnt who she was ‘behind the curtain’ so to speak! I always considered her one of my ‘friends in the twitterverse’ but I never disclosed this to her until I was on the blog tour! Such serendipity as the tour has brought us a bit closer and I am grateful that Twitter is a social-positive method of reaching past our distances in geography to connect to people who share a passion for the written word.

I am disclosing this, to assure you that I can formulate an honest opinion, even though I have interacted with Spann through our respective love & passion of reading inside the twitterverse whilst attending #LitChat; I treat each book as a ‘new experience’, whether I personally know the author OR whether I am reading a book by them for the first time.

A lovely surprise arrived within the pages of the book: 

Ms. Spann offered to send me a bookmark with the novels, as her husband had kindly designed two special editions to celebrate the series thus far along! Imagine my pure delight in finding I had received a “Blade of the Samurai” bookmark with my parcel of Shinobi mysteries! She tweeted me this picture as a ‘teaser’ and I must say, it hardly does the bookmark justice, as they are ‘slimline’ markers with the featured ‘cover art’ images per each book cover in the series. This one is a close-up on the hilt of the sword and the rolled blue & white paper; overlaid with the title and subtitle of ‘A Shinobi Mystery’. Eek. For a girl who is wholly giddy about a new cosy historical mystery series having read the first and fallen in love with it head over foot – this small gift will forevermore make me happy to use as I read each newly published installment!

Cleverly on the opposite side is a full listing of the series in print & the one title scheduled to be in print: “Flask of the Drunken Master” for July 2015! Incredibly next Summer will give me a new adventure for two of my favourite cosy investigators, whose charming method of fighting crime is nearly being indifferent to the request to solve them! Indifferent in the way that only a priest and ninja can elect to reveal as their own preferences of how to occupy their days are quite different from each other. I love how they simply ‘fall into’ a scene of a crime or are handed an offer to investigate nearly as if by accidental acquaintance. It is such a curious method of how a mystery can alight in your life and path, that I love seeing who they are connected too which will lead to a new case!

+Blog Book Tour+ Blade of the Samurai (Book 2 of the Shinobi Mystery series) by Susan SpannBlade of the Samurai
by Susan Spann
Source: Author via TLC Book Tours

June 1565: Master ninja Hiro Hattori receives a pre-dawn visit from Kazu, a fellow shinobi working undercover at the shogunate. Hours before, the shogun’s cousin, Saburo, was stabbed to death in the shogun’s palace. The murder weapon: Kazu’s personal dagger. Kazu says he’s innocent, and begs for Hiro’s help, but his story gives Hiro reason to doubt the young shinobi’s claims.

When the shogun summons Hiro and Father Mateo, the Portuguese Jesuit priest under Hiro’s protection, to find the killer, Hiro finds himself forced to choose between friendship and personal honor. . .

The investigation reveals a plot to assassinate the shogun and overthrow the ruling Ashikaga clan. With Lord Oda’s enemy forces approaching Kyoto, and the murderer poised to strike again, Hiro must use his assassin’s skills to reveal the killer’s identity and protect the shogun at any cost. Kazu, now trapped in the city, still refuses to explain his whereabouts at the time of the murder. But a suspicious shogunate maid, Saburo’s wife, and the shogun’s stable master also had reasons to want Saburo dead. With the shogun demanding the murderer’s head before Lord Oda reaches the city, Hiro and Father Mateo must produce the killer in time . . . or die in his place.

Blade of the Samurai is a complex mystery that will transport readers to a thrilling and unforgettable adventure in sixteenth-century Japan.

Places to find the book:

Borrow from a Public Library

Add to LibraryThing

Also by this author: Author Q&A : Susan Spann (on behalf of her Shinobi mysteries), Claws of the Cat, Flask of the Drunken Master, Interview with Susan Spann (FLASK), The Ninja's Daughter, Author Interview (Hiro Hattori Novels), Betrayal at Iga

Series: Shinobi Mystery, Hiro Hattori


Also in this series: Claws of the Cat, Flask of the Drunken Master, The Ninja's Daughter, Betrayal at Iga, Trial on Mount Koya, (Interview) Trial on Mount Koya


Genres: Cosy Historical Mystery, Crime Fiction, Hard-Boiled Mystery, Historical Thriller Suspense, Japanese Fiction, Martial Art History, Suspense, World Religions


Published by A Thomas Donne Book

on 15 July, 2014

Format: Hardcover Edition

Pages: 304

Author Biography:

Susan Spann 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. Her début novel, CLAWS OF THE CAT (Minotaur Books, 2013), was named a Library Journal Mystery Debut of the Month. Susan has a degree in Asian Studies from Tufts University, where she studied Chinese and Japanese language, history, and culture. 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.

Precursor to Blade: Claws of the Cat: {Book One}

Claws of the Cat by Susan SpannI could not stop reading Claws of the Cat once I found myself inside this beautiful world of Feudal Japan! I simply devoured the story, daring my eyes to read further and faster, yet wanting to take a pause to allow the scenery and the words to sink in to my conscience. This is a story of honour as much as it is a story of supposition without the ability to see past a suspicion. The fact that there is a cheeky and beloved cat, er, kitten in the household of where Father Mateo and Hiro keep their residence gave me an added joy! The very, very last scene of the novel left me in a happy smile as even though I do not understand Portuguese I recognised a ‘cognate’ of Spanish! The humour of that reply was not lost on my eyes! I love the pace of the novel, because Claws is set to have an expanse of time envelope the community, giving you the chance to know the layout and the rituals of their beliefs. There is a clever balance between Japanese spirituality, Zen Buddhism, Christianity, and a few others in-between all three. I love writers who find a way to etch a spiritual presence as part of the make-up of a character’s mind. If you appreciate crime fiction that allows you to work through the muddling puzzle as it starts to unravell and thread through the needling of proof – you will findClaws of the Cat most enjoyable to read!
– quoted from my book review of Claws of the Cat

  Katana  

Resuming where Claws left off:

As soon as I opened the pages of Blade of the Samurai, I felt as though time had stopped moving forward as I greeted Hiro and his kitten Gato as though only a few hours had transpired between visiting with them! I am still mirthfully enjoying a cheeky chuckle over the origins of his kitten’s name! Even his dear friend Kazu returns in the opening pages, which is quite wonderful considering that I had enjoyed observing their close friendship in Claws. I was hoping he might come back in successive novels in this series of the Shinobi mysteries, and thankfully, I did not have very long to wait!

I believe Hiro has grown a bit through his close companionship with the Priest, as although he is classically trained and carries on his shinobi heritage well, there are parts of his being that are being reasoned a bit outside of his traditional view and beliefs. If not, I daresay he would not work well alongside Father Mateo, as the Priest holds law, truth, and justice to such high accords. In this way, I appreciate the way Hiro is being conveyed and how his differences under Father Mateo’s influence of friendship continue to show how unique of man he is when projected against his peers. Even in consideration of other shinobi, Hiro tends to walk a line between two cultures and two distinct ways of living through practice of conviction. Read More

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Posted Monday, 1 September, 2014 by jorielov in #LitChat, 16th Century, Blog Tour Host & Reviewer, Book | Novel Excerpt, Book Cover | Notation on Design, Bookish Discussions, Bout of Books, Clever Turns of Phrase, Cosy Mystery, Crime Fiction, Cultural & Religious Traditions, Equality In Literature, Geographically Specific, Green-Minded Publishers, Hard-Boiled Mystery, Historical Fiction, Historical Thriller Suspense, Japan, Japanese Fiction, Martial Art History, Martial Arts, Passionate Researcher, Psychological Suspense, Scribd, Suspense, TLC Book Tours, Twitterland & Twitterverse Event, Wordsmiths & Palettes of Sage, World Religions

+Book Review+ Claws of the Cat (Book 1 of the Shinobi Mystery series) by Susan Spann

Posted Thursday, 21 August, 2014 by jorielov , , , , , , , , , , , , 1 Comment

Parajunkee Designs

Claws of the Cat by Susan Spann

Claws of the Cat by Susan Spann

Published By: Minotaur Books (@MinotaurBooks),
(a Thomas Donne book) 16th July, 2013

imprints of St. Martin’s Publishing Group,
which is now a part of MacMillian Publishers

Official Author Websites: Site | @SusanSpann | Blog
Available Formats: Hardcover & Ebook Page Count: 288

Genre(s): Cosy Mystery | Suspense | Japanese Fiction | Martial Art History

Converse via: #ShinobiMystery OR #ShinobiMysteries

Miso Soup

Acquired Book By:

I was selected to be a tour stop on the “Blade of the Samurai” virtual book tour through TLC Book Tours. I opted to receive the first novel of the Shinobi mystery series to formulate a better impression about where the series began and where the series is continuing in this sequel. I received a complimentary hardback copy of the “Blade of the Samurai” direct from the author Susan Spann, in exchange for an honest review. However, I received a complimentary hardback copy of “Claws of the Cat” without obligation to post a review or comment on its behalf. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein on either novel. I elected to post this review for my own edification as much as my enjoyment for the introduction to a new series I will be in full support of watching grow through successive installments!

Inspired to Read:

I personally always have a preference of reading serial fiction in ‘order’ of the established series, and I can go to great lengths to sort out the order of series too! This is especially true for the Elm Creek series (by Jennifer Chiaverini) and the Aunt Dimity series (by Nancy Atherton)! When I first started to research this novel going on tour this Summer (referencing Blade), I discovered that it is the type of series where you could ‘side step’ from the opening bits of the series, but I had feeling you’d miss quite a heap in doing so! Therefore, I was instantly inspired to read Claws ahead of Blade, and thus took up the offer to receive Claws with Blade for the tour! I simply love having a good footing into the momentum of how the key characters interact, what motivates them, and how the series expands by relieving more of their internal natures as much as a clue into their outward lives outside of their investigations (especially for cosies!).

On my connection to Ms. Spann:

I started visiting the chats hosted by @LitChat in the latter months of 2013, as it was around the time of the conference at The Betsy in which I started to cross paths with regular chatters, amongst whom were Natalia Sylvester (début novelist of “Chasing the Sun”) and Susan Spann. I am unsure which month I first started to notice Ms. Spann as a friendly presence who always reminded me of myself — someone who provided cheerful commentary, engaging questions for each visiting guest author, and a wicked knowledge base on a variety of topics. Generally speaking, I always click-over to read a person’s Twitter profile, but whilst engaged in those #LitChat(s) I felt like it was this magical rendezvous for the bookish and those who are attuned to bookish culture. In this way, it wasn’t until I learnt of Blade of the Samurai was going on tour through TLC Book Tours (the touring company I am hosting for this Interview & my forthcoming book review) I had decided to discover a bit more about her! In so doing, I learnt who she was ‘behind the curtain’ so to speak! I always considered her one of my ‘friends in the twitterverse’ but I never disclosed this to her until I was on the blog tour! Such serendipity as the tour has brought us a bit closer and I am grateful that Twitter is a social-positive method of reaching past our distances in geography to connect to people who share a passion for the written word.

I am disclosing this, to assure you that I can formulate an honest opinion, even though I have interacted with Spann through our respective love & passion of reading inside the twitterverse whilst attending #LitChat; I treat each book as a ‘new experience’, whether I personally know the author OR whether I am reading a book by them for the first time.

Miso Soup

Book Synopsis:

May 1564: When a samurai is brutally murdered in a Kyoto teahouse, master ninja Hiro Hattori has just three days to find the killer before the dead man’s vengeful son kills both the beautiful geisha accused of the crime and Father Mateo, the Jesuit priest that Hiro has pledged his own life to protect. The investigation plunges Hiro and Father Susan SpannMateo into the dangerous waters of Kyoto’s floating world, where they quickly learn that everyone from an elusive teahouse owner to the dead man’s dishonored brother has a motive to keep the samurai’s death a mystery.

Author Biography:

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. Her début novel, CLAWS OF THE CAT (Minotaur Books, 2013), was named a Library Journal Mystery Debut of the Month. Susan has a degree in Asian Studies from Tufts University, where she studied Chinese and Japanese language, history, and culture. 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.

Miso Soup

The cultural aspects of the story | hidden sub-layers to the narrative:

Spann has a way of integrating cultural references into the undercurrent of her narrative, giving the experience of soaking into her suspenseful mystery series a pure delight to any reader who likes to learn about cultures outside of their own. In this début novel, where the heart of the series lies in Hiro and Father Mateo’s presence in a place where outside influences on religious grounds is not taken lightly; these two men not only forged a friendship with each other but they form a friendship with the reader. Although there are only a few Japanese words inserted into the context of the novel itself, there are symbols to designate a new paragraph or a spilt between two different sequences. Spann also acknowledged when the use of either Portuguese or Japanese dialect were better of being used per each person they spoke to on their journey.

The subtle mention of the type of clothing different men would way to signify to each other their rank and of their position in their field of service gave a touch of authenticity. I had to simply smile when I read about miso soup served with tofu cubes inside, as my personal preference for miso soup is actually miso, daikon radish, and scallions. She has an intricate knowledge to share about weaponry giving a light on the tools of the trade for the Shinobi. I especially enjoyed the history and usage of the ‘claws’ for which the title implies a strong connection to the central plot of discovery!

Each of the little hidden sub-layers stitched into the narrative through the cultural traditions of the Japanese, gave me a proper sense of ‘time’, ‘setting’, and ‘place’ as I felt as though I was walking alongside Hiro or Father Mateo. This is important, as the 16th Century is quite a throw backwards in time, without the benefit of having living relatives and/or known history to fall back on as a method of connection. Spann even included little bobbles of cognitive thinking, showing how Hiro would want to avoid a mis-step in his deduction if he applied the logic of a piece of ancient wisdom. These are the kind of little moments I always cherish to find in a historical piece of fiction.

My Review of Claws of the Cat:

The best opening sequence to illustrate a close friendship between two diverse cultural backgrounds is placing two characters in a cheeky exchange of a game of cat and mouse; which is how we are introduced to Hiro and Father Mateo! Hiro is a proud ‘shinobi‘ whereas Mateo is a proud Priest; they each adhere not only to their convictions of their religious and cultural backgrounds, but they are two men of devout honour intermixed with a sense of duty that defies the logic of their age. Father Mateo is a humble man of God, who has chosen to serve in Japan (originally from Portugal), with his limited understanding of the language but his great concern on the spiritual lives of those who accept his guidance through his beliefs in Christianity. Hiro on the other hand, is shaped by his roots as a shinobi assassin, whose code of conduct and of respect goes past spirituality and more into the honour generally befit a warrior. Each of them tries the patience of the other, but it is who they are at the root of their core which endears their friendship the most. Hiro instantly comes across as a man betwixt his own traditions and in full acceptance of Mateo’s; untoward feeling if a day approached where he would have to sacrifice his life for Mateo’s, he would not hesitate.

The crime itself is a brutal killing of a man, who was murdered inside of a teahouse where one of the students of Father Mateo lives and works. This brought Father Mateo into a culture that has its own way of looking at things (as there is a code of honour & ethic allowing a vengeance killing to avenge a deceased loved one), forcing his hand to intercede on a young girl and placing himself in extreme danger as he did so. Watching Hiro’s reaction to the actions of his friend gave the impression that their friendship is both complicated and respectful of differing opinions.

A cover-up of a murder can always be more suspicious the further the truth extends from the visual (or physical) evidence. As Hiro had explained his own thoughts on the murder scene, I had started to gather my own. I loved learning more about the teahouses during the 16th Century, as they were very reminiscent of their counterparts in Victorian London; worlds which exist on their own clock, in their own way, and are closed to the outside world nearly completely except for certain compliances to when the world is left on their doorstep.

The working theory of this unusual duo of investigators, is that someone wanted to elicit a war to take over the coveted shogunate position which in of itself gave control over the military; yet the person in this position had to yield to the emperor who was still in a higher level of power. The cause and effect of the murder started to take on a political motive when new facts were starting to arise as Hiro and Father Mateo dug further into the witnesses who gave accounts of what they knew. I enjoyed watching Hiro observe each person they questioned, seeking clues given away through the lost art of reading body language in combination with spoken responses to enquiries. His keen observation skills warranted his partnership with Father Mateo who was more oft to speak out of haste rather than out of pensivity.

Oh! Mid-way through I sorted out of whom Hiro kept reminding me of,… do you ever strive to remember something on the very tip of your memory? This is what I was attempting to do each time Hiro would be reflected as raising his brow and/or showing a similar small response to something Mateo was saying to him. A lightbulb finally glowed quite bright: Spock! He reminds me of the logical thinking of Spock (from Star Trek: the Original Series!) and how his exchanges of theory verse thought did not always align or sympathise with Mateo! Hiro was oft-times in awe of Mateo, for not only proving he was not as unaware as others would tend to believe, but for his courage in seeking out a hidden clue Hiro himself might have missed the thread to follow!

I could not stop reading Claws of the Cat once I found myself inside this beautiful world of Feudal Japan! I simply devoured the story, daring my eyes to read further and faster, yet wanting to take a pause to allow the scenery and the words to sink in to my conscience. This is a story of honour as much as it is a story of supposition without the ability to see past a suspicion. The fact that there is a cheeky and beloved cat, er, kitten in the household of where Father Mateo and Hiro keep their residence gave me an added joy! The very, very last scene of the novel left me in a happy smile as even though I do not understand Portuguese I recognised a ‘cognate’ of Spanish! The humour of that reply was not lost on my eyes! I love the pace of the novel, because Claws is set to have an expanse of time envelope the community, giving you the chance to know the layout and the rituals of their beliefs. There is a clever balance between Japanese spirituality, Zen Buddhism, Christianity, and a few others in-between all three. I love writers who find a way to etch a spiritual presence as part of the make-up of a character’s mind. If you appreciate crime fiction that allows you to work through the muddling puzzle as it starts to unravell and thread through the needling of proof – you will find Claws of the Cat most enjoyable to read!

I shall be spending Friday consuming “Blade of the Samurai”!

Susan Spann has a writing style which keys you into the moment of the hour:

Spann has a saying on her website “Spann of Time”, and to me, ever since I first read that on her site, I felt as though she was giving a clue as to the type of woman and writer she truly is! Her rapt fascination with Japan and the historical lore around the shinobi is clearly evident in how she writes on their behalf as though you could knock on their door, request an audience over tea, and jot down notes of their lives. The absence of strong language is a personal celebration for me, because I was ever so blessed to have found not one word out of place nor offensive in this entire story! I was nearly beginning to think I was the ancient one in today’s market for cosy mysteries as too oft I am finding myself that ‘strong language’ is more the norm than the quirk! How blessed then, to soak inside this story in full absorption of its merits and simply wander off into the labyrinth neighbourhoods of Kyoto, Japan!

If I had had the time, I would have made myself a fat pot of fresh brewed tea, left a cuppa on my heart mug rug and drunk in the aromatherapy of the herbal tea as my eyes drank in the words!

Note: On the murder itself (by description and of the condition the body is found): Generally speaking, I have the tendency to read more Cosies than Hard-Boiled mysteries, but on certain rare occasions I find myself keenly fascinated and intrigued by a suspenseful crime narrative that becomes what I personally refer to as: a hard-boiled this side of a cosy! Specifically due to the fact the murder might be bludgeonedly brutal and the deceased if left ravaged by a passionate killer. There are a few authors I like who fall under this measure of a mark for mysteries and they are as follows: Cleo Coyle (for the Coffeehouse mysteries); Heather Graham (for the Ghost Harrison series); Anna Lee Huber (for the Lady Darby series); and now Susan Spann (for the Shinobi mysteries)!

As I will discuss further when I post my review (at long last, yes I know dear hearts!) for “The Anatomist’s Wife”, I discovered this particular penchant for either a medical examiner inquest of a search for a killer OR simply a stronger knitted story-line where the crime takes a back-seat to the expanding investigation into who could have committed the crime to such a degree as how it was discovered. I celebrate each author who pens a story that leaves me wholly outside my own realm for a spell, and dips into the curious nature of criminology, forensic psychology, and the pathological motivations you’d find in a cosy or hard-boiled mystery!

The writers I always list have a preference for on certain instances of inclusion, are the ones who transcend outside the genre I love to read, and weave together story that is not focused on the details of how someone died (although they are given their due on camera so to speak), but rather everything that happens after the crime itself. Pulling you further into the psychosis of how each investigator navigates an investigation and how each person treats the case he or she is working to resolve. Only the crime involved in these kinds of story fit the ‘hard-boiled’ style, whereas the scope of the stories are most definitely ‘cosy’.

Miso Soup
Read an Excerpt of the Novel:
Claws of the Cat: A Shinobi Mystery by MacMillian Publishers

Miso Soup

This blog tour stop was courtesy of TLC Book Tours:

TLC Book Tours | Tour Hostclick-through to follow the blogosphere tour.

Next I shall be reviewing “Blade of the Samurai”!

Earlier I posted an Author Q&A with Susan Spann
in conjunction with this showcase!

Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.com

See what I am hosting next:

Bookish Events badge created by Jorie in Canva

Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.com

Comments make me smile! Let’s start a conversation! I appreciate your visit & look forward to your return! I do moderate the comment threads; do not worry if the comment is delayed in being seen! Drop back soon!

Reader Interactive Question:

What do you love the most about cosy historical mysteries!? And, did you know that I have found this particular niche of fiction to be one of my favourites of the past year? If you visit my Story Vault and go down the page, you will find the other reviews of stories which alighted in my hands through a blog tour, and have given me such a blessing to discover!

{SOURCES: Cover art of “Claws of the Cat” and the book synopsis were provided by the author Susan Spann and used with permission. The author photograph and the tour badge were all provided by TLC Book Tours and used with permission. Blog Tour badge provided by Parajunkee to give book bloggers definition on their blogs. Bookish Events badge created by Jorie in Canva. Post dividers by Fun Stuff for Your Blog via Pure Imagination. Buy links on Scribd excerpt are not affiliated with Jorie Loves A Story. Book Excerpt was able to be embedded due to codes provided by Scribd. Miso soup clipart inserted through the ClipArt Plug-In via WP for the Open Clip Art Library (OCAL) – all clip art images are in the public domain and are free to use without restrictions.}}

Copyright © Jorie Loves A Story, 2014.

Related Articles:

Ninja – (en.wikipedia.org)

The ‘live reading’ tweets I shared as I read & reviewed “Claws of the Cat”:

{ favourite & Re-tweet if inspired to share }

 

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Posted Thursday, 21 August, 2014 by jorielov in #LitChat, 16th Century, Blog Tour Host & Reviewer, Book | Novel Excerpt, Book Cover | Notation on Design, Bookish Discussions, Bout of Books, Clever Turns of Phrase, Cosy Mystery, Crime Fiction, Cultural & Religious Traditions, Equality In Literature, Geographically Specific, Green-Minded Publishers, Hard-Boiled Mystery, Historical Fiction, Historical Thriller Suspense, Japan, Japanese Fiction, Martial Arts, Passionate Researcher, Psychological Suspense, Scribd, Suspense, TLC Book Tours, Twitterland & Twitterverse Event, Wordsmiths & Palettes of Sage, World Religions

+Author Q&A+ A quick but hearty conversation with Susan Spann on her profound love of Japan, writing, classic motion pictures, & seahorses! Yes, seahorses!

Posted Thursday, 21 August, 2014 by jorielov , , , , , , , , 4 Comments

Parajunkee Designs

with Susan Spann,

Susan Spann

an author whose mystery series has plans

to expand inside 18 stories

& there is room for more!

On my connection to Ms. Spann and why I am most delighted to host her:

I started visiting the chats hosted by @LitChat in the latter months of 2013, as it was around the time of the conference at The Betsy in which I started to cross paths with regular chatters, amongst whom were Natalia Sylvester (début novelist of “Chasing the Sun”) and Susan Spann. I am unsure which month I first started to notice Ms. Spann as a friendly presence who always reminded me of myself — someone who provided cheerful commentary, engaging questions for each visiting guest author, and a wicked knowledge base on a variety of topics. Generally speaking, I always click-over to read a person’s Twitter profile, but whilst engaged in those #LitChat(s) I felt like it was this magical rendezvous for the bookish and those who are attuned to bookish culture.

In this way, it wasn’t until I learnt of Blade of the Samurai was going on tour through TLC Book Tours (the touring company I am hosting for this Interview & my forthcoming book review) I had decided to discover a bit more about her! In so doing, I learnt who she was ‘behind the curtain’ so to speak! I always considered her one of my ‘friends in the twitterverse’ but I never disclosed this to her until I was on the blog tour! Such serendipity as the tour has brought us a bit closer and I am grateful that Twitter is a social-positive method of reaching past our distances in geography to connect to people who share a passion for the written word.

I felt as though this beautiful circle had tenfold returned to the path I had started to walk last year, as what is a better blessing than to host the work of an author you’ve felt blessed to know through bookish chats!?

*As an aside, as I was composing this I noticed Twitter lit up with a new notification: Ms. Sylvester was re-tweeting my note about this upcoming interview! And, whilst I was fetching the links for LitChat, I noted that the author of one of my most beloved books to have read in 2013 is going to be the guest author next week! You’ll have to follow the link to see ‘who’ as I am now motivated to return back to those chats, as my schedule and time have simply not aligned to where I could participate this Summer; a personal regret.

I am disclosing this, to assure you that I can formulate an honest opinion, even though I have interacted with Spann through our respective love & passion of reading inside the twitterverse whilst attending #LitChat; I treat each book as a ‘new experience’, whether I personally know the author OR whether I am reading a book by them for the first time. As much as I can host an Interview by the author and bring a non-bias series of questions to my readers.

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Book Synopsis:

Blade of the Samurai by Susan Spann

June, 1565: Master ninja Hiro Hattori receives a pre-dawn visit from Kazu, a fellow shinobi working undercover at the shogunate. Hours before, the shogun’s cousin, Saburo, was stabbed to death in the shogun’s palace. The murder weapon: Kazu’s personal dagger. Kazu says he’s innocent, and begs for Hiro’s help, but his story gives Hiro reason to doubt the young shinobi’s claims.

When the shogun summons Hiro and Father Mateo, the Portuguese Jesuit priest under Hiro’s protection, to find the killer, Hiro finds himself forced to choose between friendship and personal honor. . .

The investigation reveals a plot to assassinate the shogun and overthrow the ruling Ashikaga clan. With Lord Oda’s enemy forces approaching Kyoto, and the murderer poised to strike again, Hiro must use his assassin’s skills to reveal the killer’s identity and protect the shogun at any cost. Kazu, now trapped in the city, still refuses to explain his whereabouts at the time of the murder. But a suspicious shogunate maid, Saburo’s wife, and the shogun’s stable master also had reasons to want Saburo dead. With the shogun demanding the murderer’s head before Lord Oda reaches the city, Hiro and Father Mateo must produce the killer in time . . . or die in his place.

Blade of the Samurai is a complex mystery that will transport readers to a thrilling and unforgettable adventure in sixteenth-century Japan.

Author Biography:

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. Her début novel, CLAWS OF THE CAT (Minotaur Books, 2013), was named a Library Journal Mystery Debut of the Month. Susan has a degree in Asian Studies from Tufts University, where she studied Chinese and Japanese language, history, and culture. 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.

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How does a modern writer become intricately attached to 16th Century Japan? And, did your passionate pursuits of studying Asian culture, tradition, martial arts, and cuisine lend a curiosity towards this one particular era over others you could have chosen? I know you previously credited a dedicated interest stemming from your 7th grade studies, but I was wondering what anchored you to Japan since then.

Spann responds: I think the biggest attraction, for me, was the intricacy and pageantry of medieval Japanese culture. I’m an enormous fan of the “unusual and different” in all its forms, and for a person raised just west of Los Angeles during the 1970’s, medieval Japan is about as unusual and as different as it gets.

I’ve always been drawn to medieval studies in particular, in part because of the emphasis that era placed on duty and personal honor. My love for martial arts definitely plays a role, too. Samurai and ninjas (shinobi, in Japanese) were always fascinating to me, and when I reached college and realized how fascinating they were “up close” – as opposed to what I’d seen in films – I was absolutely hooked.

I can well imagine your thoughts on how uniquely diverse Japan would appear to you, being hugged so close to Los Angeles! We’re close in age then, which I had not realised until now! Yes, I admit, the Medieval eras in history have always shined a light inside my own heart, as there is simply something about that particular empathsis on duty, honour, and of course the protection of land and family. I have the tendency to lean more towards knowing of that time through British & European history within historical fiction offerings, but part of the appeal for me with your series was to break out of that familiar spot of reference and learn more about a country I grew up knowing through music, art, culture, and tradition. I have a strong passion for martial arts myself, although from the country next door to Japan! I fell in love with Tai Chi Chaun, and it is far more intricate of a martial art than people causally believe as they only go by what they observe in parks! I always felt the martial arts are part defense, part art, and part dance. It is as difficult to describe the allure to watching a martial artists and/or for wanting to learn the craft of one as it were to explain in words how one feels after seeing a horse perform Dressage.

You once revealed in an interview your passion for both modern and classic motion pictures: we both have a shared joy in seeing Cary Grant on screen! What are some of your favourite classic noir, suspense, crime drama, or mystery motion pictures? And, what do you think is missing from modern cinema from the classically told originals?

Spann responds: GASLIGHT and CASABLANCA are high on my list, as are the THIN MAN films starring William Powell and Myrna Loy. If we’re talking comedies, I absolutely adore MR. BLANDINGS BUILDS HIS DREAM HOUSE (hello, Cary Grant!) – I like it better than most modern comedies, and watch it every time I have the chance.

One of my all-time favorites is a film most people (well, the ones alive now at least) haven’t seen: RANDOM HARVEST, starring Greer Garson and Ronald Colman. It’s the story of a man who gets amnesia, the wife who loves him, and the way love has a way of making right what life makes wrong. Beyond that, you need to see it for yourself.

I think the thing I miss the most in modern films (though I love those, too) is the strength and intelligence of the writing. Classic films had to convey much more through dialogue and inference, due to the lack of special effects and elaborate modern budgets. There’s a sharpness to classic screenplays that’s too often missing now.

I simply could not resist asking you this particular question, as it is not too often I find someone who is as wrapped up in classic movies as much as I am! I think if I could tune out regular channels, my remote would never move off of Turner Classic! Laughs with mirth. I wanted to watch more each year as I became quite interested in TCM’s offerings around five years ago or thereabouts. I started to notice their monthly spotlighted actors & actresses, which was a tipping point, but then, Halloween came around and purposely staid up past my due! Laughs again. I had the extreme pleasure of seeing “Gaslight” one Halloween and “The Haunting” another year! I had already fallen for the grace and convicting confidence of Ingrid Bergman, but in “Gaslight” she truly shined in a way I had not yet seen. Being able to watch the début of Angela Lansbury was a personal triumphant as I grew up on “Murder, She Wrote” (thus, one of the reasons I love cosies!)

I cannot remember which birthday in my 30s I earmarked to watch the ENTIRE treasure trove of Thin Man movies, but I was ever so blessed to have found all of them on dvd through my local library catalogue! I know I’ve mentioned them on my blog previously, but to route it directly now is unfortunate as I do not believe I added the film to that category! Oy. The brilliance of their chemistry (Loy & Powell) is kismet as is the bang-on brilliance of their comedic timing! I also watched the documentary which features both of their rising careers and how interconnected they were in film. I cannot wait one day to buy the boxed set of the Thin Man series on dvd for my own media library!

“Random Harvest” is currently being fetched at my local library as it is the film Mum was able to see without me earlier this year, and the very film she had wished I could have watched with her! Always the way, eh? I cannot wait to experience the story, as I loved her recapture of its heart when she spoke to me afterwards! And, oh my dear ghouls, who hasn’t seen Mr. Blandings? I can see I’ll have to continue this conversation after today, as wow, do we love the same ones or what?! I have not yet seen Casablanca unfortunately, but I did like Bogart in the original version of “Sabrina” which surprised me as I was not expecting to like him. I saw him in one other film, now it might have been “The Maltese Falcon” or another, but I found I liked him best as ‘a younger actor’. As strange as that sounds, it is true. The remake of “Sabrina” is one of my favourites with Harrison Ford as a romantic lead.

I completely concur with your statement about the differences between modern cinema and classical cinema — which is why I am highly selective about which new releases I watch and which I simply bypass altogether! In fact, if anyone thinks I’m a highly selective reader they might be surprised that I am moreso as a film watcher! That being said, I had forgotten to ask you: did you ever get to attend the TCM Classic Film Festival? It is a dream of mine to go one year, even though I think I might not be able to handle the air quality of Los Angeles.

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Posted Thursday, 21 August, 2014 by jorielov in #LitChat, 16th Century, Bits & Bobbles of Jorie, Blog Tour Host & Reviewer, Bookish Discussions, Bout of Books, Crime Fiction, Equality In Literature, Historical Fiction, Japan, Japanese Fiction, Psychological Suspense, TLC Book Tours, Twitterland & Twitterverse Event

+Blog Book Tour+ The Story Hour by Thrity Umrigar *Release Day!* #literary fiction

Posted Tuesday, 19 August, 2014 by jorielov , , 2 Comments

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The Story Hour by Thrity Umrigar

Published by: HarperCollins Publishers (@HarperCollins), 19 August, 2014

Available Formats:Hardback, Ebook
Page Count:336

Official Author WebsitesSite@ThrityUmrigar  | Facebook

Converse via: #ThirtyUmrigar

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Acquried Book By:

I was selected to be a tour stop on the “The Story Hour” virtual book tour through TLC Book Tours. I received a complimentary ARC copy of the book direct from the publisher HarperCollins Publishers, in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

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Book Synopsis:

The Story Hour by Thrity Umrigar

From the critically acclaimed, bestselling author of The World We Found and The Space Between Uscomes a profound, heartbreakingly honest novel about friendship, love, and second chances.

An experienced psychologist, Maggie carefully maintains emotional distance from her patients. But when she agrees to treat a young Indian woman who tried to kill herself, her professional detachment disintegrates. Cut off from her family in India, and trapped in a loveless marriage to a domineering man who limits her world to their small restaurant and grocery store, Lakshmi is desperately lonely.

Moved by Lakshmi’s plight, Maggie offers to see her as an outpatient for free. In the course of their first sessions in Maggie’s home office, she quickly realizes that what Lakshmi really needs is not a shrink but a friend. Determined to empower Lakshmi as a woman who feels valued in her own right, Maggie abandons protocol, and soon doctor and patient become close. Even though they seemingly have nothing in common, both women are haunted by loss and truths that they are afraid to reveal.

However, crossing professional boundaries has its price. As Maggie and Lakshmi’s relationship deepens, long-buried secrets come to light that shake their faith in each other and force them to confront painful choices in their own lives.

With Thrity Umrigar’s remarkable sensitivity and singular gift for an absorbing narrative,The Story Hour explores the bonds of friendship and the margins of forgiveness.

Author Biography:Thrity Umrigar

Thrity Umrigar is the author of five other novels—The World We Found, The Weight of Heaven, The Space Between Us, If Today Be Sweet, and Bombay Time—and the memoir First Darling of the Morning. An award-winning journalist, she has been a contributor to the Washington Post, the Boston Globe, and the Huffington Post, among other publications. She is the winner of the Nieman Fellowship to Harvard, the 2009 Cleveland Arts Prize, and the Seth Rosenberg Prize. A professor of English at Case Western Reserve University, she lives in Cleveland, Ohio.

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My Review of The Story Hour:

The voice of whom greets you as Chapter One opens is a woman whose English is not second nature, as she struggles a bit to fuse words to match her thoughts and emotions. Yet even in the manner of which she voices her innermost concerns, her voice has depth of awareness; of sensing her place as it is in the world and of where she is in her life. We are greeting Lakshmi at the very moment she is attempting to take her own life. Everything is planned and laid out within the opening page, except for getting to the root of what has caused her such a deeply felt psychological anguish as to effectively want to exit her life. The details of ‘why’ she is choosing what she is doing will surely come forward lateron, but in this heightened moment we are witnessing her actions without a way to decrease the tension of the moment. As she starts to move towards completing her task to remove herself from this world, her mind flickers back through memories of how unfair and unjust her situation has become whilst living in America.

We start to see how she has a torrent of psychological abuse stemming from her husband and how even the kind favour of a gift of gratitude will be interpreted with disfavour by others. She is struggling to make sense of her self-worth and her position in life now that she is no longer with her family back in India, where she even kept an elephant as a pet. Whilst her voice draws quieter through her ordeal, the next person to step into focus is her soon-to-be psychologist Maggie who is an African-American married to an Indian; her marriage is the leaverage her boss is hoping will open a door of dialogue with Lakshmi. I could understand Maggie’s instinctive reaction of disgust realising that the merits of her work ethic and capabilities as a psychologist were only second to being a woman of colour and living in a multicultural home. She tabled her own restless thoughts as she knew they were stemming out of anger ‘in the moment’ rather than out of experience with being around her boss. In this one scene, very early-on in the novel, Umrigar humbles her psychologist by allowing the reader to visually see her own flaws, misgivings, and humanistic reactions.

I felt myself distracted a bit by the pacing inside the novel, and the shifting points of time — as it was not always easily known if we were reading the present circumstances or withdrawing back into a flashback sequence of memories. What I did enjoy was seeing how the psychologist was starting to spiral a bit from the pressure of everything she had to endure internally as she listened to other people’s stories. It is rare when it is mentioned that psychologists have a weight placed on them that nearly expects them to be inhuman. To be more than they are, as they are not able to be shielded nor numb to what they listen to during their sessions. They still have to internalise the words, the horrific stories, and find some semblance of hope to share with their patients. This is a story that honours the psychologists who for whichever reason, have reached a point in their careers where carrying on as usual is not as easy as it once were.

Although Lakshmi’s voice is a strong undercurrent of the story, I nearly felt as though it was her personal plight in life and cross to bear that gave the freedom for Maggie to heal herself. Maggie was just as much in need as counsel and consolation as Lakshmi. Their paths crossed at a critical point in both of their lives, to where the sessions Lakshmi needed to talk out her life’s experiences and the emotional vaccum that had encased her past the point of wellness; gave Maggie a chance to re-examine her own difficult past. Both women share turbulance and domestic abuse to a certain extent, and both women never could be open and honest about who they each faced inside the mirror.

Yet the danger of allowing yourself to erase the distance needed to be a psychologist and effectively help your patient grow through healing is that the side effect could be devasting to your own affairs. The closer Lakshmi came to growing wings to fly on her own accord and stand on her own two feet, the closer Maggie came to watching her life spiral competely down the drain. The threads which connected them were a double-edge sword, as where on one hand a doctor is meant to heal and do no harm; the opposite is making yourself vulnerable to where the lines are too blurred to see who the patient is. The Story Hour is a domestic drama about two women from different walks of life whose path brings them into the forefront of each other’s awakening hour.

Fly in the Ointment: 

Although the randomness of the stronger words used in the novel are idly placed and randomly inclusive to the story, they are the little nettles of disappointment for me. I did not feel the words enhanced the storyline, nor the continuance of the character’s thoughts, if anything they felt like a simple way to express their emotions. I also felt a bit disconjointed from the dialogue and narrative passages, as one moment we are in the present and a second later we are in the middle of a flashback. I believe the effect was to be a continuing stream of conscienceness, but for some aspects of it, I felt muddled. As I wasn’t sure if I was still in the present, learning about the recent past, or ‘somewhere’ neither here nor there completely. There is a fair bit of crudeness as well, not as much as in crude humour but simply in crude ways of expressing certain things that the characters are attempting to reflect about themselves.

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This blog tour stop was courtesy of TLC Book Tours:

The Story Hour
by Thrity Umrigar
Source: Publisher via TLC Book Tours

Places to find the book:

Borrow from a Public Library

Genres: Literary Fiction


Published by HarperCollins Publishers

on 19th August, 2015

Pages: 336

click-through to follow the blogosphere tour.TLC Book Tours | Tour Host

Earlier today, I hosted an Author Interview with Thrity Umrigar.

Previously I enjoyed the story Losing Touch by Sandra Hunter.

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See what I am hosting next:

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Comments make me smile! Let’s start a conversation! I appreciate your visit & look forward to your return! I do moderate the comment threads; do not worry if the comment is delayed in being seen! Drop back soon!

Reader Interactive Question:

What are your own thoughts about the connection between the books we read, the authors who pen them, and the unique bridge of connective thoughts which unite all of us together!?

{SOURCES: Cover art of “The Story Hour”, author photograph, book synopsis and the tour badge were all provided by TLC Book Tours and used with permission. Author Interview badge provided by Parajunkee to give book bloggers definition on their blogs. Bookish Events badge created by Jorie in Canva. Post dividers by Fun Stuff for Your Blog via Pure Imagination.}

Copyright © Jorie Loves A Story, 2014.

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Posted Tuesday, 19 August, 2014 by jorielov in Adulterous Affair, ARC | Galley Copy, Blog Tour Host & Reviewer, BlogTalkRadio, Bookish Discussions, Bout of Books, Disillusionment in Marriage, Divorce & Martial Strife, Family Drama, Flashbacks & Recollective Memories, Fly in the Ointment, Grief & Anguish of Guilt, Hindi Words & Phrases, Library Find, Life Shift, Literary Fiction, Literature of India, Medicated Against Will, Mental Health, Mental Illness, Modern Day, Psychiatric Facilities, Psychological Abuse, Realistic Fiction, Self-Harm Practices, Social Services, TLC Book Tours, Trauma | Abuse & Recovery, Vulgarity in Literature