Warriors of the Storm is the 9th book in The Last Kingdom series.  The main character is Uhtred, who understands the difference between being a monarch and being a leader.  The series deals with the wars that took place before the formation of England.  The series is loosely based on actual events – Uhtred existed, but there are disagreements about which Uhtred the fictional book series is based upon.

If you have read the other books in the series, this one is similar.  To simplify the plot, a conflict arises, Uhtred comes to save the day.  Another conflict arises, Uhtred doesn’t listen Æthelflæd and saves the day once again.  Uhtred is honorable, understands how to make people follow him, is ruthless when called for (cuts the arms off of enemies), but shows mercy when possible.

My biggest complaint about this book is that Æthelflæd appears to be an idiot.  She is so concerned with promoting Christianity that she can’t see past ruses, despite Uhtred’s warnings.  He is only able to save her from herself by openly defying her.

I would recommend this book because Uhtred is a likeable character and, despite my oversimplified summary of the plot, reading about how Uhtred solves problems and confronts conflicts was interesting.

Disclaimer: I received an advanced review copy of this book

cookbook review: The Banh Mi Handbook

Andrea Nguyen has written several Vietnamese cookbooks and has now added one all about banh mi.  The Banh Mi Handbook is a compact yet comprehensive book.  When I saw how thin it was, I was a bit skeptical, but this book does a good job of covering all of the different components that make up banh mi.

Banh mi in Vietnamese means bread, but it also refers to Vietnamese sandwiches.  Often, the sandwiches include a schmear of pate (optional, but pate makes it taste better), meat or other protein, pickled veggies (usually carrots & daikon), some cilantro, and thin slices of jalapeno.  It’s a meal that you can eat with one hand and may provide all or almost all of the food groups.  It’s no wonder that it’s so popular.  The problem that I have is that I live in the Midwest, which isn’t exactly known for its Asian cuisine.  The other problem with banh mi is that, even though it is a simple concept and it’s hard to mess it up, it’s also hard to get it just right – just the right amount of pate, just the right ratio of meat to pickled veggies … and it’s hard to get just right because everyone has their own preferences.

The Banh Mi Handbook shows home cooks how to make their own banh mi to suit their own tastes.  It includes a recipe for making banh mi (although I’m lazy and just buy some small Italian/French loaves from the grocery store), pate recipes (again, I’m lazy and just use liverwurst), Vietnamese meatloaf (her book calls it garlic pepper pork tenderloin – I was able to find some premade stuff at an Asian grocery store).  The pickled carrots & daikon are super easy and fast to make, especially if you have a food processor.  The book includes other pickled veggie recipes like snowpea and lemongrass pickle, but I’ve never seen those things on banh mi before so I just stuck with the carrots & daikon.  The meat or other protein is the part that takes the longest to prepare … and really, it’s entirely up to you if you want to spend more time making some of the more complicated recipes that require more ingredients (I’m looking at you, Sri Lankan Black Curry Chicken) or something simple but still delicious such as the  Grilled Lemongrass Pork.  For vegetarians, edamame pate, coconut curry tofu, baked maggi tofu, and lemongrass sriracha tempeh recipes are included.  I think, though, that you could substitute tofu for the meat in many of the other recipes and it would be fine.  The grilled lemongrass pork seemed versatile – just put the tofu between 2 plates to get rid of more of the water and to firm it up more.

The one pretty minor complaint I have about this book is that I would have loved to have seen more pictures of the different recipes.  Don’t get me wrong, there are quite a few color pictures, but I’m greedy like that.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Blogging for Books for my honest review.

Book Review: Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith

Career of Evil is the third book by Robert Galbraith (pen name for J. K. Rowling) about PI Cormoran Strike.

In this book, a killer is making it personal by sending body parts addressed to Robin.  Robin continues to play more of a major role in the investigation and Cormoran even refers to her as a “partner.” I loved that we continue to find more about Robin because she is such an interesting character.  We find out about why she quit school just shy of graduation.  There’s also more insight about her relationship with her fiance, although, I still find it difficult to accept that she’s with such a pompous lout.  The more that’s revealed about Matthew, the more of a jerk he appears to be and I’m left wondering why on Earth she would want to marry him.

Besides Cormoran and Robin, the other characters in the book aren’t very well developed.  There’s a friend of Cormoran’s who only helps out when they can pay him and the usual incompetent police figures.

There’s more development of the sexual tension/attraction between Cormoran and Robin, but it’s still sort of innocent, with neither admitting or allowing themselves to really think about a relationship together (other than their existing professional one).

The book ended on a frustrating note for me.  I was thinking, “Noooooooo!” at the very end.

Overall, I enjoyed the book, but I found that the weepy/mopey bits tended to drag.  Still a fan of the Cormoran Strike series!