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: One More Thing by B. J. Novak

Before reading this book, I really didn’t know anything about B. J. Novak, other than he was on the Office (and I’ve seen some but not many of those episodes).  I had no idea he was a writer until I heard something about a children’s book he did called The Book with No Pictures.  It sounded like such a neat concept that I looked him up and found this book.  One More Thing is a collection of short stories.  I don’t even like short stories in general, but I enjoyed these so much that I started pacing myself so that I wouldn’t finish the book so quickly.

There is some irony in the short stories, but they’re not ALL irony, which gets old (ahem O. Henry).  The stories are so witty – at times funny, at times sarcastic (but not a mean sarcastic), at times serious and contemplative.  I read a lot as I take the bus to/from work and people were probably starting to think I was crazy for laughing out loud.

Based on his writing, B. J. Novak seems like it would be really great fun to hang out with or to have dinner with.  He seems like one of those rare people that you don’t have DO something with to have fun.

I even read the acknowledgements at the end.  I hope he writes more soon … and if he participates in Barnes & Nobles signed editions next year, I will be buying multiple copies to give out as gifts.

If you’re interested, in my search, I also ran across this video where he answers a question sent in by a girl.  I liked his thoughtful response.

I think I am slightly in love B. J. Novak now.  How tedious to have a celebrity crush, and yet, I can’t help it.  The more I’ve found out about him, the more interesting he seems.

 

book review: Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons by Lorna Landvik

Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons is a book about a group of five women who are neighbors.  Their friendships develop and deepen as they participate in a book club with each other.  The book follows these women over the span of several decades, revealing dark pasts, an abusive spouse, parenting, etc.  The women’s friendships with one another draw in their families so that their spouses and children become friends, too, by default.  The book shows how a book club causes a ripple effect in their relationships.

The book is what you would expect from a book about friendships and was fun to read.  The theme of the book is nothing new (see Jane Austen Book Club), but that doesn’t diminish its entertainment value.  It is somewhat sappy and predictable, but it leaves you with a content, after-school special feeling.

Book review: Ice by Anna Kavan

There are a few books that I have read that I just don’t understand.  The first book I tried to read that left me completely bewildered was Ulysses by James Joyce.  Parts of his book made sense and then all of a sudden, I had no clue what was going on.  Ice was similar to my experience reading James Joyce.  The writing itself was beautiful and painted vivid pictures.

The narrator is a man who is in love or infatuated with a young woman with silver hair.  The story takes place in a dark, apocalyptic setting with lots of war and military control.  In the book the man encounters this woman in various scenarios.  It is almost like he jumps between alternate worlds, but there is no way for the reader to tell that he is doing so, except by what is happening in the text … and the text doesn’t always make sense.  He sees this woman in a number of different situations.  In some, he is pursuing her.  In some, she is dead or he witnesses her death.  In all of the scenarios, she is a victim.  She is abused, raped, chased, an object locked away in a room.

Because I didn’t understand this book, I went on-line to look up the author and the book.  The book is considered an important literary work by most people who are much more important than me.  Anna Kavan had a sad life that ended when she overdosed.  Honestly, this explained a lot to me.   One review I read said that the book was an allegory for her own addiction.  I didn’t get this from the book, but the disjointedness in the story could certainly be explained by her doing drugs.

If you like “trippy” books that don’t have to have a meaning, this might be the book for you.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary e-book from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

Book review: Death in the Stacks by Jenn McKinlay

In Death in the Stacks is part of the Library Lover’s Mystery series, but this book works as a stand alone.  Olive Boyle, the new Library Board member, is horrid towards Lindsey Norris (the protagonist) and her staff.  Olive is found dead at the big fundraiser at the library and the main suspects are Paula, one of the staff that Olive particularly didn’t like, and Lindsey.  I would consider this book a cozy mystery (I’ve recently discovered this), which is not my favorite genre, but this book was better than several of the cozy mysteries I have read.

I wanted to read this book because I love mysteries and books (obviously) and I thought it would be fun to read a “Library Lover’s Mystery.”  While the murder takes place in a library and the characters work in a library, there isn’t much else relating to libraries.  The library wasn’t important to the story – the murder could have been anywhere.  The fundraiser could have been for any non-profit organization.  I guess I was hoping that the library would be more pivotal to the story.

The plot is okay and the story progresses reasonably quickly.  The characters are a bit flat.  Olive is the stereotypical villain from children’s cartoons.  Even though Lindsey was the protagonist, I didn’t much care for her.  It was hard to develop any sort of rapport with the characters.  Paula, whom the reader was supposed to feel sorry for, was an odd character.  Her appearances were outlandish, which is why Olive didn’t like her, but her personality was extremely shy and submissive.  The ending of the book was a bit of a wild free-for-all.

This is an easy, light read.  If you like cozy mysteries, this would be up your alley.  I received an advanced readers copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

book review: Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is (as the title suggests) a bittersweet novel about conflicts that come between the love of a young Chinese American, Henry Lee, and a Japanese American, Keiko Okabe, during World War II.  At first, their conflicts were closer to home, with  Henry Lee’s father’s bigotry towards the Japanese being their biggest obstacle.  Then, with the development of the war, Japanese Americans were sent to internment camps.

I loved the way this book was written because it dealt with many complex issues without detracting from the story.  Everything seemed so natural and realistic.  From the way Henry was treated by the other boys at the predominantly white school he attended and at home by his parents, the reader learns about growing up as an outsider.  Henry doesn’t fit in at school because the other boys are more well off and are white.  It doesn’t matter whether Henry and Keiko were born in China, Japan, or the United States because if you’re not white, you will always be a foreigner to some people.  Henry also doesn’t fit in at home because his Chinese parents don’t understand English but won’t let him speak Chinese at home so that he will be more American.  They think that not allowing him to speak Chinese at home will allow him to better assimilate into American culture.  The resentment towards Japanese people borne by Henry’s father shows that it’s not just white people who are racist – people of color are racist, too.  It also serves to show the generational gap between father and son, with his father clinging to old resentments, and Henry, having grown up in the United States, being more willing to accept people for who they are rather than where their ancestors came from.

Through it all, we see love.  There is the persevering, first love between Henry and Keiko.  But there is also love for America.  When Henry asked Keiko’s parents why Japanese Americans went along with the internment, the reply was that it was their way of showing their patriotism.  It made my heart ache.

Book review: The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen

This suspense/thriller was a fast read with some twists and turns that kept the book interesting.  The story alternates from the first person point of view of Vanessa, the ex-wife, and third person through Nellie.  Vanessa appears broken, jaded, and a bit desperate to stop the impending marriage between her ex-husband and his new wife.  Nellie, on the other hand, is young, full of vitality and seems to have finally found her Prince Charming.

Don’t read any spoilers and don’t read other reviews about this book.  Go into it blind and you will enjoy it more.

I really enjoyed the creative plot and the way the story was told through different points of view.  Some of the plot was a bit of a stretch for the imagination, but not enough to dismiss the story altogether as ridiculous.

This book will be published January 9, 2018.  I received an electronic ARC thanks from Net Galley for my honest review.

Book review: The Templar Brotherhood by James Becker

It is obvious that the author has spent a lot of time researching the Knight Templars.  The book itself, though it contains a lot of action, at time acts as a textbook to teach the reader about the various Templar sites through the conversations of its characters, Robin Jessop and David Mallory.  While I found it interesting, it also slowed down the pace of the story.  Also, the characters are supposed to be experts in the field so I don’t think they would be explaining this stuff to each other.  Several of their long conversations were purely for the benefit of the reader.

The book mentioned previous run-ins that Jessop and Mallory had with the Dominicans so I’m pretty sure this book is part of a series (I haven’t looked it up to confirm this).  This may also explain why I didn’t quite bond with the characters.  The author may have developed the characters in the previous books and hadn’t felt it necessary to do so in this book.  I didn’t feel that there was anything special about these characters.

Some of the highlights of the book included the historical bits about the Templars and the puzzles that Jessop and Mallory have to solve.  My favorite part of the book was the author’s notes at the end about how the some of the settings in the book were real places related to the Templars.

This is a decent book and while the book was a fun read, I am not motivated to read the other books in the series.

This book will be published October 3, 2017.  I received an electronic ARC from First to Read in exchange for my honest review.

book review: The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman

The Invisible Library is the first in a series about librarians who travel to parallel universes to retrieve books.  The librarians sometimes retrieve books to preserve them or sometimes to strengthen the bond between the the universe and the Library.  The exact purpose is a bit murky and since Irene, the main protagonist, is only a junior librarian, she doesn’t get the whole story.  The reader doesn’t either since the story is told through Irene.  The book blends fantasy and science fiction and reminded me a lot of the movie, The Librarian.

Just like in the movie, Irene travels to the other locations by using doors to the library.  Librarians in the book have tattoos on their backs which allow them to understand a special language, which allows them to use powers.  They have to be precise in how they use the language in order for their powers to be effective.  Irene and Kai, her new apprentice, are sent into a world with chaos, which means that the world doesn’t always behave according worlds that don’t have chaos.  In this world, werewolves, faeries, and vampires thrive … and it turns out, many other weird things such as cyborg alligators.

I was torn about this book.  On one hand, I loved the premise, the characters were creative, and the writing was decent.  However, I felt that the author was trying to put too much into the novel and there were too many things that weren’t explained.  It felt like I was reading a book with ADHD, if that makes sense.  I will be reading at least 1 more book in the series to see if it gets better.  If the second book is overly-full of protagonists/events, I will probably move on to a different book or series.

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