Thursday, June 1, 2017

What I Read in May

A Rule Against Murder by Louise Penny

"What happened here last night isn't allowed," said Madame Dubois.
It was such an extraordinary thing to say it stopped the ravenous Inspector Beauvoir from taking another bite of his roast beef on baguette.
"You have a rule against murder?" he asked.
"I do. When my husband and I bought the Bellechasse we made a pact....Everything that stepped foot on this land would be safe."

It is the height of summer, and Armand and Reine-Marie Gamache are celebrating their wedding anniversary at Manoir Bellechasse, an isolated, luxurious inn not far from the village of Three Pines. But they're not alone. The Finney family―rich, cultured, and respectable―has also arrived for a celebration of their own.

The beautiful Manoir Bellechasse might be surrounded by nature, but there is something unnatural looming. As the heat rises and the humidity closes in, some surprising guests turn up at the family reunion, and a terrible summer storm leaves behind a dead body. It is up to Chief Inspector Gamache to unearth secrets long buried and hatreds hidden behind polite smiles. The chase takes him to Three Pines, into the dark corners of his own life, and finally to a harrowing climax.

I don't know why, but the books from this series make great 'mind clearing' reads for me.  They are thought provoking but fun; engaging but not obsessively so; and they help me to step back from the big feelings I have after books like Lincoln In The Bardo.

In the fourth installment of the Chief Inspector Gamache series we find him on holiday with his wife at a beautiful summer house away from civilization.  This sounds like the perfect summer getaway to me.  While vacationing they share the estate with a wealthy extended family who have some secrets which are about to be exposed...and murder ensues.

I have heard that this is the book where the series takes a turn toward less bizarre yet more personal murders...and this one did not disappoint.  I love the characters.  I love the settings.  And I love that the murders are not grotesquely described or committed in an extremely heinous fashion.  I enjoy a mystery novel, but am a sensitive reader so Louise Penny fills the bill on every level for me.  I have tried James Patterson's Women's Murder Club and Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series...and while the stories were fascinating and the writing was superb, there were scenes in each of those that disturbed me for days and I can still feel the 'sick in the pit of my stomach' when I think about them even though its been years since I read the books.

Next time I'm in the bookstore I will pick up the next installment of the series to have one hand when the mood strikes!

Entertaining With Betty by Betty Crocker

Rediscover classic recipes and entertaining advice from the 1950s with Betty Crocker!

The year was 1959. People watched Leave It to Beaver on TV and listened to Elvis on the radio. And when they entertained, they turned to this indispensable guide from Betty Crocker, which you may remember from your mom’s or grandma’s kitchen. Now you too can rediscover Betty Crocker’s secrets for great parties. Whether throwing an afternoon tea, a midnight dinner, or a pot-luck supper, Betty Crocker has you covered. This authentic reproduction of the classic 1959 book (Betty Crocker’s Guide to Easy Entertaining) gives you a nostalgic snapshot of an earlier era--and a mother lode of party tips, etiquette advice, and recipes that have stood the test of time. Inside you’ll find:

  • Great ideas for a wide range of get-togethers, from dinners and buffets to barbecues, brunches, and potlucks
  • 89 time-tested recipes, 208 charming illustrations, and 11 nostalgic color photographs
  • Tried-and-true party favorites like Vichyssoise, Parmesan Oven-Fried Chicken, Herb Batter Bread, and Brownie Peppermint Pie
I had to go Walmart to get my battery changed out late one day after work.  While I was waiting, I ran through to pick up a few miscellaneous items that I couldn't find at the grocery store and I ran across this little gem.

I rushed to the waiting room to crack it open and was pleasantly surprised as soon as I read the first paragraph.  Yes, it is a nostalgic look back at entertaining in 1959...but it's etiquette and ideas are timeless in many ways.  I love her definition of hospitality: being disposed to entertain with generous kindness.  And in this time of Facebook envy, Instagram comparison and Pinterest fails, this quote is needed now as much as ever before: “Hospitality isn’t a contest, it’s sharing the best you have without apology.”

This is my nighttime 'quick read' so it is still on my nightstand.  I'm about halfway through.  The recipes are not very tempting...but the look into entertaining has kept me quite interested and helped me to see why I feel so at home when certain people entertain.  Evidently our parents passed down some of the rules of entertaining without exactly telling us what the rules were or why they existed. 

The Baker's Wife by Erin Healy

Before Audrey was the baker's wife, she was the pastor's wife.

Then a scandalous lie cost her husband a pastoral career. Now the two work side-by-side running a bakery, serving coffee, and baking fresh bread. But the hurt still pulls at Audrey.

Driving early one morning to the bakery, Audrey's car strikes something—or someone—at a fog-shrouded intersection. She finds a motor scooter belonging to a local teacher. Blood is everywhere, but there's no trace of a body.

Both the scooter and the blood belong to detective Jack Mansfield's wife, and he's certain that Audrey is behind Julie's disappearance.

But the case dead-ends and the detective spirals into madness. When he takes her family and some patrons hostage at the bakery, Audrey is left with a soul-damaged ex-con and a cynical teen to solve the mystery. And she'll never manage that unless she taps into something she would rather leave behind—her excruciating ability to feel other's pain.

What can I say about this book? 
  1. I liked it a lot better than last month's book club read.
  2. I figured out most of the mystery pretty early on...but still felt invested in the characters, especially Audrey and Julie.
  3. I wanted to throttle Jack for misusing the Word of God and his self-righteousness. 
  4. That probably means that I have a bit of self-righteousness in myself...'cause 'if you spot it, you got it!'
  5. I realize that many people struggle as I do with the difference between God's forgiveness and the consequences of sin.
  6. I can hardly wait for June 5th to discuss the juicy subjects with my group.
  7. I know that I will have all kinds of thoughts about the book after hearing their takes on it.
  8. I now want to bake some bread!  That just sounds good to me during this rainy weather.

The morning after I finished the book I read this quote in a devotional:

One of the greatest forms of blindness is to be unaware of our own faults and weaknesses. But one of the greatest forms of power is moral power based on a life of integrity.

There was great blindness and great power in The Baker's Wife and it was interesting to see how both worked together to set the stage for this book. It is not always the ones who have had it bad that are weak...nor is it always the ones that society sees as upright that live with true integrity.

Adorned: Living Out the Beauty of the Gospel Together by Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Known for her wisdom, warmth, and knowledge of Scripture, Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has encouraged millions through her books, radio programs, and conferences. Now she’s back with a legacy work on Titus 2 and its powerful vision for women:

Woman to woman. Older to younger. Day to day. Life to life.
This is God’s beautiful plan.

The Titus 2 model of older women living out the gospel alongside younger women is vital for us all to thrive. It is mutually strengthening, glorifies God, and makes His truth believable to our world.

Imagine older women investing themselves in the lives of younger women, blessing whole families and churches. Imagine young wives, moms, and singles gaining wisdom and encouragement from women who’ve been there and have found God’s ways to be true and good. Imagine all women—from older women to young girls—living out His transforming gospel together, growing the entire body of Christ to be more beautiful.

This is Christian community as God designed it. Read this book and take your relationships to new depths, that your life might find its fullest meaning as you adorn the gospel of Christ.

I'm slowly working my way through this one on Audible and in book form.  Lots to think about.  I just finished the chapter on slander...and 'OUCH!'

Exit West: A Novel by Mohsin Hamid

In a country teetering on the brink of civil war, two young people meet—sensual, fiercely independent Nadia and gentle, restrained Saeed. They embark on a furtive love affair, and are soon cloistered in a premature intimacy by the unrest roiling their city. When it explodes, turning familiar streets into a patchwork of checkpoints and bomb blasts, they begin to hear whispers about doors—doors that can whisk people far away, if perilously and for a price. As the violence escalates, Nadia and Saeed decide that they no longer have a choice. Leaving their homeland and their old lives behind, they find a door and step through. . . .

Exit West follows these remarkable characters as they emerge into an alien and uncertain future, struggling to hold on to each other, to their past, to the very sense of who they are. Profoundly intimate and powerfully inventive, it tells an unforgettable story of love, loyalty, and courage that is both completely of our time and for all time.

This book!  Oh my goodness, this book!

It is one of my Book of the Month selections.  I took it with me to Caney Creek this past weekend and finished it in two days.  I don't think it would have taken me that long if it had not been a family holiday.  It is a short read...about 230 pages long.

This is a love story.  But it is also a story about being a migrant...a refugee.  Why people leave their homes.  How their new 'home' receives them.  How they change as a result of the relocation. 

I cannot stop thinking about the story of Saeed and Nadia.  But neither can I stop thinking about the vignettes of other migrants or of the beautifully written prose in this book.  I found myself reading an especially meaningful paragraph multiple times and then just putting the book in my lap as I pondered it in my mind.

If you choose to read this thought-provoking, strongly narrated novel...have book darts or post-its on hand because there are so many passages that you will want to savor.  I am going to have to read it again because not only did I not pack anything, I didn't even have a pen with me at the time. 

And if you read it, please let me know because I really, really, REALLY need someone to discuss this book with.  It is just that good!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I remember mom's Betty Crocker cook book. That was the one cookbook that got used a lot. I had forgotten about the all the little tidbits of how to throw a party that had been in there until you mentioned here. Great memories!