The Best Cook in the World by Rick Bragg | Mini review + GIVEAWAY

  • Title: The Best Cook in the World: Tales from My Momma’s Table
  • Author: Rick Bragg
  • Publication Year: 2018
  • Format: Audiobook
  • Rating: 4.5 stars
  • Synopsis: Margaret Bragg does not own a single cookbook. She measures in “dabs” and “smidgens” and “tads” and “you know, hon, just some.” She cannot be pinned down on how long to bake corn bread (“about 15 to 20 minutes, depending on the mysteries of your oven”). Her notion of farm-to-table is a flatbed truck. But she can tell you the secrets to perfect mashed potatoes, corn pudding, redeye gravy, pinto beans and hambone, stewed cabbage, short ribs, chicken and dressing, biscuits and butter rolls. Many of her recipes, recorded here for the first time, pre-date the Civil War, handed down skillet by skillet, from one generation of Braggs to the next. In The Best Cook in the World,Rick Bragg finally preserves his heritage by telling the stories that framed his mother’s cooking and education, from childhood into old age. Because good food always has a good story, and a recipe, writes Bragg, is a story like anything else.

I like to say “I was born in the South, but I’m not a product of the South.” So I know good food but I am also at a distance where I can easily detach and see its flaws. So when I read books like this that viscerally remind me of my roots and of my family, there’s a tendency to feel conflicted. But thankfully, this book was full of the good food and family and left the white supremacy in the freezer to unpack another day.

I’ve enjoyed Rick Bragg’s books since they were assigned in my journalism program. So when I saw he was writing a memoir/cookbook about his family, I knew I’d eventually read it. (If only because after a year in DC I’ve yet to find any mac n’ cheese or biscuits that are worth a damn.)

What I got when listening was major deja vu. I had so many moments of “are you sure you’re not talkin’ about my own grandma?” in the first 3 chapters that I stopped keeping track. He captures the personality of the matriarchs in his family with such skill that it’s like I knew them in the end. You can hear his momma piping up when he asks “dumb” questions about the recipes she never wrote down for herself. Even the recipes themselves are infused with their voices.

With the recipes comes a memoir of a poor white family living and cooking their way through the 1900s. Bragg details a little of the wider world, with snippets of “the black diner on the other side of the tracks was also serving up the same food,” but his focus is what he knows: the stories of his family, in a sort of time capsule.

This is a memoir of his family, and without meaning, to it’s a memoir of the South. But only the good parts. The hospitality and the unpretentious charm. There’s this feeling of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” which sounds quaint – but only if you don’t look too hard.

All of that to say is I’ll be putting it in the hands of my mother and aunts as soon as I can. And I need to bake some biscuits – stat!

Libro.FM Giveaway

Do you love audiobooks or want to give them a try in the new year? I’m helping a local bookstore give away a 3-month subscription to Libro.FM over on my Instagram.

Libro.FM is an audiobook platform that, for the same cost as Audible, lets you support your local bookstore when you buy audiobooks. In this Year of Indies, why wouldn’t you want to support your own indie? So whether you’re an audio novice looking to try something new in 2019 or an audiobook obsessive like me, this would give you 3 months to potentially find a new favorite book!

HOW TO ENTER! 📚
• Follow me on Instagram ⭐️
• Like this post ⭐️
• Comment with a favorite audiobook or an anticipated read for the year ⭐️

EXTRA ENTRIES (up to 2)
• Tag a bookish friend in your comment ⭐️
• Share my post to your Instagram stories and tag me. ⭐️

RULES! 📚
• Must be a public account
• Must live in the U.S. or Canada (Libro.fm rules not mine)
• No giveaway accounts
• Giveaway will close at 12 midnight on Friday, Jan. 18.

Friday reads | Footnotes No. 1

I was feeling the Friday afternoon slump at work today, so I snuck in some audio while waiting for my next meeting 🤫

What are you reading this weekend? I’m hoping to finish The Prey of Gods, which is a sci-fi/fantasy story set in a future South Africa that I’m really enjoying so far. You follow a bunch of different characters from a young girl coming into new abilities, a delightfully ruthless demi goddess trying to reclaim power, and several characters who experience a new hallucinogen sweeping the country. I’m eager to see how all of these storylines come together!

PS: I’m trying out a new posting format. Sometimes I find that posting during the week can be stressful to manage with work etc., so I thought quick thoughts and photos would be a great way to connect with you all more often. Let me know what you think! Like it/hate it/that’s what Bookstagram is for/ anything at all!

Library Haul & Trash/Treasure My TBR| Dec. 7

Happy Friday, bookworms!

So, I have a problem. AKA the problem I have every day of the year. I have a dozen audiobooks out from the library just waiting. Now normally what I do in this situation is prioritize listening to the books that are due soonest and by culling the list whenever I realize I’m not in the mood for a book/don’t foresee being in the mood before time runs out. With the end of the year coming up, I wanted to be more intentional about what I’m reading. I don’t want to waste the end of the year reading mediocre books!

So here’s what I have checked out. I want to know what you think about any of these books, and either trash it or treasure it. I want to know which books to prioritize and which I should ditch. 

I have moderate to high interest in most of these. Others I only checked out because they were on my physical TBR and I wanted to prioritize those books. 

  • All the Pieces Matter: The Inside Story of The Wire, by Jonathan Abrams
  • Imbeciles: The Supreme Court, American Eugenics, and the Sterilization of Carrie Buck, by Adam Cohen
  • Well-Read Black Girl : Finding Our Stories, Discovering Ourselves, by Glory Edim
  • Marley & Me, by John Grogan
  • Homegoing, by Yaa Gyasi
  • How Long Til Black Future Month?, by NK Jemison
  • There There by Tommy Orange
  • Purple Hibiscus, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  • Exit West, by Mohsin Hamid
  • Red Clocks, by Leni Zumas
  • Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, by Gail Honeyman
  • Severance, by Ling Ma

Trash it or treasure it! Let’s chat in the comments!

Muse of Nightmares by Laini Taylor | Book Rant

Book: Muse of Nightmares

Author: Laini Taylor

Release Date: Oct. 2, 2018

Synopsis

In the wake of tragedy, neither Lazlo nor Sarai are who they were before. One a god, the other a ghost, they struggle to grasp the new boundaries of their selves as dark-minded Minya holds them hostage, intent on vengeance against Weep.
Lazlo faces an unthinkable choice—save the woman he loves, or everyone else?—while Sarai feels more helpless than ever. But is she? Sometimes, only the direst need can teach us our own depths, and Sarai, the muse of nightmares, has not yet discovered what she’s capable of.
As humans and godspawn reel in the aftermath of the citadel’s near fall, a new foe shatters their fragile hopes, and the mysteries of the Mesarthim are resurrected: Where did the gods come from, and why? What was done with thousands of children born in the citadel nursery? And most important of all, as forgotten doors are opened and new worlds revealed: Must heroes always slay monsters, or is it possible to save them instead?
Love and hate, revenge and redemption, destruction and salvation all clash in this gorgeous sequel to the New York Timesbestseller, Strange the Dreamer.
 

Format: Audiobook

Narrator: Steve West

Length: ~16 hours

Listening speed: 1.5x

Rating: (★★★):

Review

(TL;DR: Unpopular opinion, I think it was messy fan-service that I was extremely disappointed by)

If you follow me on Goodreads or Instagram, you’ll know just how much of a struggle reading this book was. I started it first thing on Monday and it just could not make it through. That never happens to me. This is going to be all unpopular opinions so please take all of the following criticisms with a grain of salt. I wanted to like this and I’m glad you did/will if you’ve read it. But here are my issues:

It started off really rough. The first chapter introduced all new characters, and it’s unclear from the beginning when it’s supposed to have taken place. So from the start, I couldn’t really jump right back into the story from the cliffhanger like I wanted to. Wehn we finally got back to Lazlo and company, the narrative/perspectives seemed to have changed style from the first book/I just don’t remember it clearly enough. With everyone talking in the same scenes, it was really jarring when the perspectives would change. You’d be in Lazlo’s head but then all of a sudden you’d be hearing about Minya’s motivations, then in Sirai’s. It was a lot of messy back and forth rather than neat sections focused on one person. This didn’t really continue for the rest of the book, but it’s what made the beginning so slow because I had to keep restarting to keep the story straight.

Now I don’t want to give spoilers for any of rest, so I’ll talk more broadly. My main problem is this felt like poorly done fan service. Laini Taylor knew everyone was expecting a lot out of this sequel. We needed backstory, we need resolution, we needed more Lazlo-Sirai personal time. We got all that, and it was too much. This felt like 3 books shoved into one. The backstory takes over the plot and expands the world in a way that doesn’t fit the book.

We could’ve had a quieter, more streamlined plot that dealt with characters we already knew and really examined everyone’s motivations rather than introducing all these new plot lines/crazy explanations/weird tonal shifts/and obvious set up for followup books. The development we got of Minya’s morally-gray character was excellent, so why in the world did we need an extra enemy to deal with?

I’ve seen rave reviews saying “Forget all your expectations, because this book will deliver all of that and so much more.” But to me, that feels, lazy (?) in a way? If your readers couldn’t have possibly known what would be in the second book, that doesn’t mean it was an excellent twist. It means you were missing the foundations and foreshadowing you needed in the first book.

My Month in Books | September Stats

Happy October, bookworms! Before the new month gets underway, let’s take a look back at September. I love looking at my stats, especially if they reveal something I wasn’t expecting. This month seems pretty standard to me, but it’ll give you, lovely readers, a glimpse into my reading life for the month of September.

Into the stats!

Continue reading “My Month in Books | September Stats”

WWW Wednesday | Weekly Wrap Up

I saw this type of post of From Cover to Cover and thought, what a great way to do a weekly wrap up. After doing my massive August wrap up I knew I needed a more frequent wrap up schedule, and this is just perfect. It’s WWW Wednesday, a tag hosted on Taking on a World of Words It’s easy to do, just answer the three questions below!

This first post I’ll be wrapping up the first two weeks of September, and then I’ll be weekly going forward. Into the wrap up!

Continue reading “WWW Wednesday | Weekly Wrap Up”