Red Sparrow and a Ukrainian Dish in Protest

Our current Cook the Books Club selection, hosted by Simona of Bricole, has been Red Sparrow by Jason Matthews.  According to the Publishers:
"In contemporary Russia, state intelligence officer Dominika Egorova has been drafted to become a “Sparrow”—a spy trained in the art of seduction to elicit information from their marks. She’s been assigned to Nathaniel Nash, a CIA officer who handles the organization’s most sensitive penetration of Russian intelligence. The two young intelligence officers, trained in their respective spy schools, collide in a charged atmosphere of tradecraft, deception and, inevitably, a forbidden spiral of carnal attraction that threatens their careers and the security of America’s valuable mole in Moscow" .... The Publishers' rant also called the novel an "electrifying modern spy thriller", however stupefying might be a better adjective.

"The art of seduction" i.e trained and systematicaly degraded, prostitute spies.  Sadly, I was unable to finish this book, couldn't identify with the lead characters at all, aside from pity, and would agree with one reviewer, admittedly in the minority, of mostly sycophant mainstream voices, who said in part:

"If this was a novel about old spies in suits, I’D BE SO HAPPY.


Ahi in a Creamy Mushroom White Wine Sauce Despite The Body in the Piazza

I just finished The Body in the Piazza, by Katherine Hall Page.  This book should really be on our next Cook the Books list!  So much tempting food here. Page has an ongoing mystery series I've somehow missed out on (well, along with who knows how many other fine series missed up to now) this one featuring Faith Fairchild is actually the twenty-first.  Usually I try to start with the first, but I read a good review and it was available on Kindle from the library, good since I haven't had my cataract surgery yet.  Also I read a good review, though some of her earlier works didn't fare so well.  Aside from all of that, this one was very well written, and completely stand alone.  Not to mention the many delicious meal descriptions, cooked up and served both at the cooking school as well as in local restaurants and homes.   From the Publisher's Summary:

"The twenty-first Faith Fairchild mystery takes Faith and her husband, the Reverend Tom Fairchild, to Italy, where murder and mayhem mix with pecorino, panna cotta, and prosecco. To celebrate their twentieth wedding anniversary, amateur sleuth Faith Fairchild and her husband, the Reverend Tom Fairchild, leave placid New England behind for a week of romance and fine food in Italy. The bruschetta, the biscotti, the Chianti--Faith can't wait! She's also looking forward to seeing her former assistant Francesca, and take a class at her new cooking school in Florence.  But on their very first night, a travel writer Faith meets in their Roman hotel turns up dead. Then, in their cooking class in Florence, they find themselves surrounded by a number of suspiciously familiar faces they recognize from Rome. Someone is cooking up some unsavory business, including sabotaging Francesca's school. To save her anniversary vacation and protect her friend, Faith must follow a twisting trail of clues to unmask a killer--while learning to master a mean Spaghetti a la Foriana, too!"