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Sharing our love for authors, and the stories they are inspired to tell.

New On The Shelf At Fiction Books This Week

My new book mailbox this week, comes courtesy of a review request from Katie Olsen, representing Little Bird Publicity, on behalf of their client, author James Thayer.

‘House Of 8 Orchids’ probably isn’t the kind of thriller I would typically be drawn to if I was bookshop browsing, however I find myself strangely intrigued by the premise, drawn into a world of which I know relatively little and eager to read on … so here goes!


In 1912, John Wade and his brother, William—children of the American consul—were kidnapped off the street in Chungking, China, and raised in the house of Eunuch Chang, the city’s master criminal.

Twenty-five years later, John is the eunuch’s most valuable ward, a trained assassin and swindler, and William has become a talented forger.

On the brink of World War II, China is in chaos. When William betrays Eunuch Chang and escapes to central China, a place of ferocious warlords and bandits, John begins a desperate search to save his brother, while Eunuch Chang hunts them both.


image of author James ThayerJames Thayer is the son of an eastern Washington farmer and his wife is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Washington State University and of the University of Chicago Law School.

He teaches novel writing at the University of Washington extension school, where he received the 2015 Excellence in Teaching Award in the Arts, Writing, and Humanities.

James  is the author of thirteen critically acclaimed novels, which have been translated into all major European languages, Japanese and Chinese.  He has recently ventured into the world of non-fiction, publishing a manual for aspiring novelists, ‘The Essential Guide to Writing a Novel.’  

When not writing, James enjoys running and has completed more than 30 years of running 20 or more miles a week. He has competed in a marathon (actually, he says, it was two marathons; his first and his last) and many 10 and 12 kilometer races.

He plays bass for a garage band, The Toneheads.  What the band lacks in talent, it makes up for in volume.

James lives in Seattle with his wife and two daughters.

Keep up with all the latest news at James’s website

Follow James on Twitter

James shared this thought about opening sentences:

If in the first chapter a hurricane is going to blow down an oak tree which falls through the kitchen roof, there’s no need to first describe the kitchen.

Picture of an English red post boxMailbox Monday is a gathering place for readers to share the books that came into their house during the last week. Be warned that Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists.

Mailbox Monday now has a permanent home, where links may be added each week. So why not stop by, leave a link to your own Mailbox Monday post, oh! and don’t forget to leave a comment for our three new joint administrators, after all, we all like to receive them … ‘Mailbox Monday’

Leslie of ‘Under My Apple Tree’

Serena of ‘Savvy Verse & Wit’

Vicki of ‘I’d Rather Be At The Beach’

This is a great way to plan out your reading week and see what others are currently reading as well… you never know where that next “must read” book will come from!

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I can’t remember a time, even as a child, when I haven’t been passionate about books and reading.
I began blogging, when I realised just how many other people out there shared my passion for the written word and I have been continually amazed at the wealth of books that are available and the amount of great new friends I have made, from literally 'The Four Corners Of The World'.

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    • Hi Rebecca,

      Thank you so much for stopping by at Fiction Books this week. I love meeting new bloggers, so your visits will aways be welcome and your comments appreciated 🙂

      I don’t read a huge amount of historical fiction, however we do have a wealth of home-grown UK authors and books, specifically dealing with war-time sagas, so I have no shortage of something to choose from, when the mood takes.

      ‘House Of 8 Orchids’ particularly caught my eye because of its Chinese setting, which is not an area of I have ever really considered as having World War ll connections, so I shall be interested to read the perspective from which the book is written.

      Have a great week and ‘Happy Reading’

    • Hi Harvee,

      I had to dig deep into the old memory cells, to recall school time history lessons about this period in Chinese history. There was always so much emphasis put on the war in Europe, that the Far East somehow got pushed to the back of my mind!

      Thanks for the interest in this intriguing storyline, great to catch up with you again 🙂

    • Hi Kathy,

      That John and William, sons of the American consul, are kidnapped in the first place is bad enough, but that they are then trained in criminal activity, only to later turn on their captor, is surely setting a pace right from the start, which is only going to increase as the story progresses. I am assuming a certain amount of violence and possibly torture along the way and I have no idea of a possble end-game, which is only going to heighten the tension!

      Thanks for taking the time to comment, I always value your visits 🙂

  • Sounds good. Reading the synopsis I was however surprised (why I don’t quite know) to learn that the book is set on the brink of WWII which intrigues me greatly.

    Hoping you had a good weekend and one that wasn’t quite as wet or windy as ours.

    • Hi Tracy,

      I don’t think our weekend weather was anything like as bad as your own, athough we have been promised the tail end of another storm down in our part of the world on Tuesday.

      I shared your initial surprise on reading the full premise of the book and even when I read up on China’s involvement with the war against Japan, some 2 years before the official start of WWll in Europe, it was as though I was reading about it for the first time.

      I needed to cast my mind way back and search the memory banks, before I remembered those history lessons about the rule of Chiang Kai-shek and the associated Chinese political scene.

      That was what really made me eager to accept the review offer for ‘House Of 8 Orchids’, as I am certain (well hoping!) that when I start reading, some of those long forgotten details will come back to me 🙂

    • Hi Mary Ann,

      I am quite surprised that this is a book that would appeal to you, so I would be interested to see what you think as I publish update posts, as I progress through reading and reviewing it.

      Thanks for taking the time to visit, I always value your comments 🙂

    • Hi Vicki,

      I do have a couple of books coming up very soon, which I am certain will be more to your liking 🙂

      I really appreciate that you still stop by to say hello!

      Have a good week and ‘Happy Reading’

  • Like you, I’m not sure I would have been drawn to this one under normal circumstances. Laying it out for me like this, though, it does sound rather interesting. I won’t add it to my wish list yet, but it may well end up there if you feature more about it.

    • Hi Kelly,

      I look forward to sharing a few more snippets from the book with you, as part of my reading and reviewing journey. Your own thoughts would be most welcome and appreciated, as you always have a very focussed and objective opinon.

      Thanks for stopping by ‘Happy Reading’ 🙂

    • Hi Serena

      Eunuch Chang definitely sounds like a nasty piece of work, doesn’t he? Although, if after 25 years, William and John can still find it in them to want to escape his clutches, then perhaps he is not as influential as he thinks he is!

      Thanks for hosting MM and for stopping by today 🙂

    • Hi Elizabeth,

      I’m not certain about the significance of the number 8 in the title and James doesn’t give much away on his website. However I have gone on to the Goodreads forum and asked the question, so hopefully either James himself, or another blogger who has already read the book, will come back to me with an answer!

      The only thing I could think of, is that 8 might be the total number of years that China was involved in World War ll?

      Thanks for taking part in the discussion and for raising such a good question 🙂

    • Hi Elizabeth,

      You probably don’t even remember asking this question. However I have today received this reply from fellow Goodreads reader, Kathie …


      “The number 8 in Chinese feng shui has the similar pronunciation with FA meaning wealth or fortune. This number is very welcome among Chinese people. I suspect the author used it because 8 is a lucky number for Eunuch Chang. There are a lot of “feng shui” references in this book”

      I haven’t got round to reading this book for myself yet, however it has been receiving consistently good reviews, although Kathie wasn’t such a big fan.


    • Hi Violet,

      I don’t think my reading travels have taken me that far afield before and no amount of research is ever going to be enough to second guess how the storyline will infold, in a country so vast and diverse as China.

      If you have any more ‘Chinese’ recommendations, that would be good 🙂

  • House Of 8 Orchids sounds good. And I guess there is no need to describe the kitchen at all then.
    Good for him on all that running.
    Happy reading Yvonne.

    • Hi Naida,

      Set as it is in China, this is going to be a completely different style of writing and storyline for me. I’m always up for a new challenge, so I am looking forward to ‘House Of 8 Orchids’ getting to the top of my reading pile!

      I can see where James is coming from when he advocates not being overly explicit about transient detail. However speaking personally, I enjoy descriptive writing. It helps to set the scene for a storyline. So even though the kitchen may be destroyed in the next few pages, it is still good to know what it looked like when it was intact, as that may help later when perhaps I need to relate to the people who lived and cooked in the room, or what kind of furnishings etc. it once had – Especially if we are talking about a murder/mystery or thriller premise 🙂

      Thanks for taking the time to comment, I always appreciate your visits 🙂

Written by Yvonne