Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Shogun's Daughter

The Shogun's Daughter (Sano Ichiro, #17) 

 I finished this book a few days ago and I have to say, that I still wonder and think about this story. It seems to have lingered and there are not many books I have read that do that for me. Laura Joh Rowland has created an amazing tale full of mystery and Eastern martial arts magic that I found alluring. This was the first historical fiction book I have read from the Tokugawa era in Japan and I was not disappointed in the least.

Rowland did an excellent job at describing this foreign era in such detail it was as if I was watching a motion picture within my own mind. I have always been a sucker for a man with a code of honor and the main character Sano has one of the highest, the code of the Samurai. He was given the task of finding out if someone had intentionally killed the Shogun's daughter with smallpox. This would prove to be even more difficult to accomplish once his arch rival puts himself in a position to rule Japan now that the only legitimate heir to the throne is dead. Sano's morals will be tested even further once the Shogun turns his back on him after he is accused of murdering the heir apparent, a young man who is said to be the son of the Shogun and one of his former concubines. The story will keep you turning pages to find out what has happened and who is responsible for both deaths within the Shogun's family. (As a side note, I could not put this book down and read well into the night to finish it. That was how hooked I was!).

The one part of this book that I was a little unsure of its relevance to the overall story was a secondary plot that dealt with the magical side of martial arts. Rowland introduced a character by the name of Hirata who was at one point one of Sano's retainers and had a high place amongst his ranks. But then something changes for Hirata and he joins a secret society of three other men. Once he realizes that rituals they are preforming awaken a ghost general that wants revenge against the Shogun's family, he runs off to try to save his family and to make things right. Rowland did not really develop this storyline very in depth and I have to say even now I am a little curious as to why it was there and for what purpose. This book ended with Hirata's story taking a strange turn and I find myself wondering if it is to set up the next novel or if I missed something from within its mystical pages.

Other than that, I thought that this book was extremely well written. The story flowed from one chapter to the next, tempting me and dazzling me with exotic riches I have never experienced. One area that I felt a slight disconnect with the era would be in the dialogue. Some of the phrases used seemed more modern and didn't seem to fit within this place and time, but it did not deter from the the wonderful mystery being told. I will say that I was able to figure out who was behind the two murders within the Shogun's family relatively quickly, but was so invested in the tale being told by Rowland to be disappointed too much by that.

Overall, I would think that anyone that loves historical fiction set in the time of the Samurai with a wonderful twist of murder conspiracy should very much enjoy this book. If you are not big into historical fiction and prefer your murder mysteries to be a little more closer to the present, then you probably would want to skip this one.

Rating: 4 out of 5

I borrowed this book from my local library; I was not asked to do a review of this book.

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Friday, December 20, 2013

Daughter Cell


 * Jay Hartlove did an interview with me and that will be posted under the "Author Interviews" tab on this blog. *

Possible Spoiler Alert within the review below.

When I was first asked to consider this book for review, I was very intrigued due to my science background. The thought that someone's soul could be altered into someone else or not even exist because of genetic manipulation was extremely interesting. This book is the second in the Isis Rising Trilogy by Jay Hartlove and I have not had the chance to read the first one as of yet, but do not necessarily think that the story was hard to follow because of that.

While I enjoyed the thought process behind the science, I was a little disappointed with respect to the end result. Hartlove must have done a great deal of research to get the scientific language just right within the pages of this book, but I had a hard time wrapping my mind around how introducing a virus with new genetic material could alter the person's appearance relatively quickly. There wasn't an explanation for this. Does the DNA being introduced need to be from an individual that is relatively the same size and shape as the individual it is being injected into? What about introducing DNA across genders? How would that work in regards to a person's appearance and how much pain would be involved on the patient whose DNA is being manipulated? There were just too many unaddressed questions for my liking. However, I will say that it is a very thought provoking book and that is something that I do like very much. 

The other issue that I had with respect to the DNA manipulation was that the "soul altering" book cover blurb wasn't really addressed. There were a few moments at the end of the book where Hartlove tried to explain it, but it felt unresolved and open ended. Perhaps that was the author's true intention, to make the reader think about the prospect of how altering DNA could create a completely different soul in a person who already has one.

In terms of his characters, I thought that emotional development of the main character Randolph was very well developed. His grief over the loss of his wife and the possible upcoming loss of his daughter that was now in a coma was very heartfelt by the reader. However, I had a hard time believing his reaction to some of the situations that he found himself in. When he woke up after four months of being blacked-out, I do not think that I would have been as calm or collected as he was. Even after my best friend and business partner came walking out of the other room, I would still have freaked out completely. Some of the explanations for different complications Randolph had throughout the story given to him by his partner seemed hard to believe as well and I began to reassess the validity of the overall storyline.

The one thing that I was expecting was that Sanantha Mauwad, the psychiatrist and character that the series is based around, would have been a bigger part of the overall book. But that was not the case and she was written in a supporting role, which was disappointing for me. I did not get a very good feel for her as a character and would have liked a little more development into her Voodoo belief system. Perhaps this development was done in the first book in the series and was not expanded on here in this book. Overall, I would have liked more of her and less of some of the other characters.

Lastly, the villain and the type of Chi Black Magic that he used seemed odd to me. I do not know much about that Eastern tradition of Chi or the dark Chi magic that he apparently used, but I had a hard time believing that he would be able to kill someone with a single thought or that he could control anyone with thought. His identity seemed very apparent to me almost from the get go, which also was a little disappointing. I like it when the authors make me work a little to figure things out. 

Overall, this book had a decent storyline that flowed relatively smoothly from one chapter to the next. There seemed to be a good mix of different types of characters and an intriguing plot that made me want to keep turning the pages. I think that there were some areas that should have been expanded on and maybe some other issues that could have been dealt with a little differently. 

If you enjoy books that keep you asking questions and have a slight Michael Crichton scientific undertone to them, then this book may be something you should check out. If you need all the questions your mind begins to ask answered at the conclusion of the book, then you might want to skip this one.

Rating: 3 out of 5

I was given a copy of this by the author via Bostic Communications; I was not paid to give this review.

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Thursday, December 5, 2013

Three Rules VIrtual Book Blog Tour

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Three Rules by Marie Drake
Book website:

Sales Links:

Copyright Marie Drake
Pages: 296
Genre: Fiction, Suspense

Three Rules - The Blurb:

 Hope Wellman has a childhood full of horrific memories, a bone chilling recurring nightmare, and a persistent paranoid sense of being followed that she would rather keep repressed. Is evil reaching from beyond the grave to capture the tattered remnants of her soul once and for all, is it only a machination of her disturbed mind, or is there something happening more sinister than even she can imagine?
 Attending the funeral of her abuser is the first step in putting her life back together. She struggles with the fact she never told anyone what happened to her, and that the grave they are mourning over is empty. She'd find it a lot easier to move on and believe in the future if he were in the box, ready to be covered with dirt. She fears the last thread of her sanity has snapped when she sees Lucas everywhere she turns, and can't escape a recurring nightmare. Is her tormentor alive, or is she imagining it? Is her dream triggered by past fears or is it a prediction of the future?

Quoted from Three Rules:
 “I have learned three rules in my life: 1.) The most dangerous people in the world are not always strangers. 2.) The scariest things imaginable are not those that can kill you, but those you can live through. And probably the most prominent: 3.) The most horrible possibility is not what could happen to you, but what you could become – I became a killer.”
~Hope Wellman