book review: The Saint of Wolves and Butchers by Alex Grecien

In The Saint of Wolves and Butchers, Skottie Forster, a state trooper, gets drawn into a hunt for an ex-concentration camp administrator named Rudolph Bormann (aka Rudy Goodman) who has hiding out in Kansas since the 1950s.  Skottie learns about the hunt when she encounters Travis Roan and his dog, Bear, on a routine traffic stop.  Travis works for the Roan Foundation, an organization that hunts bad people and brings them to justice.

Spoilers ahead …

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Though the plot is far-fetched, I liked some of the characters.  The author could probably write an entire series about Travis and Bear.  They were my favorite characters in the book.  Skottie was an okay character, but I didn’t find her very interesting.  Reading this book required a massive suspension of belief.  Hunting a Nazi for war crimes isn’t so unusual.  That part I could handle.  The parts that made me balk were the subplots.  So, in addition to being an evil person who performed experiments on prisoners, Bormann, even though he is supposed to be keeping a low profile in the United States so as to not blow his cover, founds a church.  The church preaches Aryan purity and teaches discrimination against other races and non-Christian religions.  In the church, Bormann builds a secret torture chamber that is soundproof.  He collects mostly women and children of color to torture, but also tortures a male of color once in a while.  After he performs experiments on them, he dumps their bodies in nearby lake.  Because he is the head of a church, he is able to find some racist helpers that he can trust with his secret.  They help him collect minorities to torture because he is old.  As if these people weren’t evil enough, one of Bormann’s sons is involved in sex trafficking.  See?  A bit of a wild ride.

There are some other subplots thrown in for good measure.  One deals with Travis’ dad and the other with Skottie’s marriage.

Even though the book went overboard with its plotline, it was an okay read.  Travis and Bear made the book worth reading.

This book will be published on April 17, 2018.  I received an advanced electronic reviewer’s copy from First to Read.

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book review: School for Psychics by K.C. Archer

School for Psychics has an interesting premise.  The book opens up with Teddy Cannon, a 20-something woman, with a large debt to some Russian mafia types.  She stole money from her parents and decided to go to a casino to win money to pay back her debt.  Unfortunately, she has been banned from every casino on the Strip in Vegas because she won too much.  She ends up being told that the reason she is so good at poker is that she is psychic and she is recruited by someone from a school for psychics.  The school is a secret, but they work with the FBI and other law enforcement agencies to help solve crimes with their psychic abilities.  It reads kinda like Harry Potter in that sense.

Despite the age of the characters and the occasional sex scene (nothing graphic, really), I would consider this book to be juvenile fiction.  I found the storyline enjoyable, but the characters were pretty awful.  I wish that the characters were better because the plot has so much promise!  I really didn’t like Teddy.  She is the main character and the book is told through her, but I thought that 1) it was pretty crappy of her to steal her parents’ money, 2) she is irresponsible – I mean, come on, a 20-something who isn’t going to school with no job, 3) the gambling thing is an annoying plot hole (if she’s a psychic, how could she have lost so much money in the first place?), 4) the way she interacted with her friends and others was selfish (I wouldn’t want to have her as a friend), and 5) I really didn’t see any redeeming qualities other than her psychic abilities, which she was born with and did nothing to earn.  She came off as a bad stereotype of a millennial.  It actually detracted me from the plot because I kept thinking that Teddy was such a brat.  Actually, I can’t think of a single character that I actually liked from the book.

Maybe if I was 12-13 years old, I wouldn’t have minded her behavior.  That’s probably the target age for this book.  It was an easy read.  I just wish there had been more substance to the characters.

Disclaimer: I received an advanced review e-book from NetGally in exchange for my honest review.  This book will be published April 3, 2018.

 

Book Review: The Drinking Food of Thailand by Andy Ricker with JJ Goode

The Drinking Food of Thailand is a cookbook about, as the title implies, foods that are eaten when drinking in Thailand.  Andy Ricker is a James Beard winner and owns the restaurants, Pok Pok, Whiskey Soda Lounge, and Pok Pok Noi.

Let’s start out with all the positives.  I like that the special equipment required is listed for each recipe.  I like that the recipes appear to be authentic, although I am by no means an expert on traditional Thai food.  Some of the vignettes that accompany the recipes were fun to read.  Personally, I liked the stories where he talked about how certain foods or drinks were made rather than his eating experiences.  In particular, the bits on rice whiskey at the front and the description of  (with pictures!) of how to wrap the packets for Jin Som Mok Khai come to mind.

My biggest problem with this book is that it is just not practical for many Westerners.  There are many ingredients that aren’t readily available and the author doesn’t give us any substitutions for some of those hard-to-find materials.  For example, tiny dried anchovies.  He does say that they are probably available at Asian stores … but maybe he means only Asian stores by the coast?  I looked for it in a few Asian stores because the recipe only required 3 ingredients (dried anchovies, oil for frying, and sweet Thai Chile sauce), but I couldn’t find any dried anchovies so I gave up.  Other recipe ingredients that are probably going to be difficult for most people include chicken tendons (the kneecap), pigs ears and intestines, frog legs, pickled gouramy fish fillets, goat horn chiles, Shaoxing wine, and frozen market lime leaves.  Basically, there were only a few recipes that I could actually make out of the whole book.  There was one for salt-chili dip for green mango (delicious! – and I’ve seen similar dips in Mexico and Vietnam) and Yam Met Mamuang Himpahaan (fried cashews with salt, chiles, and green onions).  The cashews were okay, nothing special.

Don’t think that you can whip up some of these dishes when you’ve already been drinking.  Most of them require separate sauces or syrups.  Let me take you through my attempt at the fried papaya salad.   You’d think that you just fry up some slices of papaya and sprinkle some sauce and dip it into a sweet/sour/spicy sauce and you’re done.  Nope.  The recipe calls for rice flour, tapioca starch (okay, those aren’t too hard to find and I actually had those in my pantry), tempura batter (not in my pantry but not too hard to find at the grocery store), and limestone water.  What the heck is limestone water?  Oh, good, there’s a note to turn to page XXX in the book.  Maybe there will be a substitute.  The limestone water recipe calls for 3 cups of water and 3.5-4 ounces of red or white limestone paste.  Ummm…..  No idea where I would be able to find this locally, and honestly, it doesn’t really sound safe.  Wait, that’s not all.  The sauce still needs to be made, which calls for a syrup that has a recipe.  I absolutely hate recipes within recipes.  Forget it, this is not worth it.  On to the next recipe …

The kicker?  There is one page in the book that says, “Perhaps the most popular modern drinking food in Thailand is … French fries!”  Hilarious.

I would suggest skipping this book unless you live somewhere with access to many Asian ingredients.

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