We veer off the things-I-have-enjoyed-in-the-Word-lately path to go down the bumpy road of book reviews. I say bumpy road because truly, everyone has their own opinion about a book. And they should! Why not?! In giving mine, I’m not looking for robust discussion. I either want people to agree with me and join me in some mutual fangirling or roll their eyes so heavily at me that they decide to scroll on by, blessing my heart. So, here’s a sampling of what I’ve read recently!
- Milk Street Tuesday Nights, by Christopher Kimball. This is a cookbook! It’s a large, dark blue, swanky hardcover with recipes like “shaking beef” (excellent) and “rigatoni with ricotta-sage pesto” (I forgot I do not like sage.) Every recipe is easy but tastes complicated, like you’re the sort of person who buys goat cheese based on the right kind for the recipe, not the cheapest possible goat cheese. But here’s where the cookbook prevails over other cookbooks: not only do these adventurous recipes taste amazing, they do not require you to buy a weird ingredient once and then let it rot in your fridge. If you are required to buy scallions, there are at least 3 other recipes you can choose that also need a few scallions. Ditto anchovies. Ditto cilantro. And the things that you have to buy even though you might only need a few tablespoons, like fish sauce, those things can go in the fridge til you need them again. I won’t lie, fish sauce smells like you fear teenage socks will smell, but it is vital to more than one recipe. Get it from your library or buy it for the foodie in your family for Christmas!
- Where the Crawdads Sing, by Delia Owens. It’s a who-done-it, but that’s as far as it takes the mystery trope. Instead, it’s a lyrical, honest, vulnerable, beautiful story with a satisfying ending. Every time I talk about this book I hear myself describing what it’s not: expertly talks about nature, but not in a boring or show-off way. It describes protected resources but does not promise the world will end soon and that it’s definitely partially your fault. It is not smug. It’s not shoving any message or lifestyle or worldview down your throat. Its only agenda is good storytelling. The writing is gorgeous and captivating but never tries too hard. It’s almost like…it’s almost like the author was enjoying herself! Five stars.
- Vindicating the Vixens: revisiting sexualized, vilified, and marginalized women of the Bible. Sandra Glahn, ed. This book is a collection of essays about women in the Bible who are sometimes described as “questionable characters.” (my friend Erin’s Bible used that phrase in a footnote and I am still tickled) Let’s just spill the tea: RAHAB WAS A HARLOT. (pretty successful, actually. The king himself went to her for advice. Good thing she married into the tribe of Israel, I bet they benefited from her leadership and business acumen.) This book contains honest scholarship and does not stray away from the Scripture in its interpretation of familiar texts. It is not a pompous or stuffy academic read. It’s filled with hope and always has a thread of pointing toward God, not the reader.
- Storm Cursed, by Patricia Briggs. This is the current book in her “Mercy Thompson” series about the car mechanic/coyote shapeshifter in the Pacific Northwest. I’ve loved the series for years, and the beginning of the book reminded me why: she doesn’t need crude language or exploitative sexual content to tell her story, which I appreciate. However, I had to stop a few chapters in, because witches. I just can’t with witches anymore. Werewolves, vampires, fairies, all that make-believe stuff, fine. But in this book, witches are evil, they are evil for good reason, and it’s too close to the witches I know personally for me to enjoy reading about it as entertainment. Maybe next time! This one, I had to DNF. (did not finish)
- Sapphire Flames, by Ilona Andrews. No witches! Just fantasy. This author (it’s a husband and wife team, actually) has the most impeccable story structure I’ve ever seen. No plot holes, nothing holier-than-thou, no Big Social Lessons, just good entertainment. Creative! Excellent worldbuilding! The hero has a family and money problems, and her Love Interest is not problematic, he’s actually incredibly interesting in his own right. There’s a PG-13 kiss near the end but that’s it for those of you wondering about heat level. I enjoyed this book so much I’m deconstructing it as an exercise to see how they did it. (because I am a geek who wants to learn how to write better, that’s why)
- Master and Commander, by Patrick O’Brien. I have not read this one yet. I’ve always wanted to, because they made that movie about it and Russell Crowe was all mad that it only won, like, sound effects or something at the Oscars that year, so I got it out from the library and there it sits, ready for me to check off my list. Maybe I need some incentive! Let’s see…if I read it, I will buy some seafood. Yeah!!
This fall, along with the O’Brien, I’m working back through Lee Child, finding fictional books starring midwives (but nothing like Chris Bohjalian’s “Midwives,” that was too stressful), looking forward to Leigh Bardugo’s new release, and hoping to sneak a couple of non-fic titles from a friend who keeps recommending I read this or that author on topics about the Holy Spirit. They better own these books they keep recommending, because I’m just going to show up one night and borrow them all!