Monday, September 21, 2009

A Samurai Never Fears Death

There is a saying that you can never again go home. This is a lesson that sixteen year old Seikei learns in the mystery "A Samurai Never Fears Death." In this fifth samurai mystery set in ancient Japan, Seikei has to return with his adopted father to his hometown. Seikei has been gone for several years and his return is quite an unhappy surprise for his younger brother and older sister. In order to become reacquainted, they go to a puppet show. There, the body of a narrator is found murdered and it is up to Seikei to find the murderer.

I also enjoy this series of mysteries by Dorothy and Thomas Hoobler. They entertain in a Sherlock Holmes fashion, while providing some history about ancient Japan. I enjoyed this one more than most, because I can really start to see the growth of Seikei as a samurai and a detective. His adopted father, Judge Ooka has a very minor role in this novel, mainly as the catalyst for Seikei to return home. It is truly up to Seikei to solve the mystery while staying honorable to his new role in society.
Who would I hand this book to? Fans of mystery series such as the Hardy boys or Nancy Drew.

Monday, September 14, 2009


Darkwood by M.E. Breen caught my attention by the cover, but held it firm after the first paragraph.
"The sun sets so quickly in Howland that the people who live there have no word for evening. One minute the sky is blue or cloud gray, the next minute it is black, as though someone has thrown a heavy blanket over the earth. Nowhere is the sky darker or the night longer than Dour County, a hatchet-shaped region on Howland's western border. A swift river runs through Dour County. Slippery cliffs overhang the river. An icy sea roils off the coast. But worse than these is the forest that grows to the north. No roads mark the forest and no human footprints. Like the dark, it has lives of its own."

I loved the start of this book but it lost me with time due to the jumpiness of the story. Maybe there was just a little bit too much going on? At the beginning it seems simple, the story centers around a young girl named Annie. She has lost her older sister and parents and must stay with her aunt and uncle. The aunt and uncle are not the nicest people ever. Soon, in fairy-tale fashion, she must escape to the forest to keep from being sold and enslaved to mine on the cliffs. But the forest has the dreadful Kinderstalks that roam and eat children. Will Annie survive?

The story progresses rapidly through Annie's quest. It tends to jump around a bit in plot, characters, and overall themes (Is it a coming of age quest like the cover suggests or a tale of the importance of a balanced ecosystem?) The end is also wide open for an upcoming sequel. All this being said, I did enjoy this book, it's just one that I will have to revisit several times because I know that I have missed somethings in the first reading.

Who would I give this book to? Readers who enjoy the Inkheart series or Michelle Paver's Chronicles of Ancient Darkness.