The Golden State Warriors aren’t just NBA champions, they are league-changers.
Their collection of four in-prime All-Stars has forced all challengers to either accept defeat or attempt to construct their own superpowers. Blockbuster deals for Jimmy Butler (to Minnesota), Paul George (to Oklahoma City) and Chris Paul (to Houston) prove not everyone is willing to concede the Western Conference.
“It’s a weapons race in the NBA,” Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey told reporters. “You’re either in the weapons race or on the sidelines.”
Of course, there’s also a difference between being in the race and anywhere close to the Warriors. But while there’s still a gap between them and everyone else, there’s also a hierarchy shaping up beneath the top spot.
The West’s cellar-dwellers aren’t even participating in the race, so they’ve been excluded from our exercise. But there are 10 teams—11 for our purposes, as we’re evaluating the Utah Jazz with and without All-Star free agent Gordon Hayward—clamoring for a shot at the throne, each ranked by overall strength and ability to challenge the three-time defending conference champs.
Burma: Rivers of Flavor ($1.70 Kindle), by Naomi Duguid [Artisan] – Winner, IACP Cookbook Award for Culinary Travel (2013) & Taste Canada Food Writing Awards in the Regional/Cultural Cookbooks category
Naomi Duguid’s heralded cookbooks have always transcended the category to become “something larger and more important” (Los Angeles Times). Each in its own way is “a breakthrough book . . . a major contribution” (The New York Times). And as Burma opens up after a half century of seclusion, who better than Duguid—the esteemed author of Hot Sour Salty Sweet—to introduce the country and its food and flavors to the West.
Located at the crossroads between China, India, and the nations of Southeast Asia, Burma has long been a land that absorbed outside influences into its everyday life, from the Buddhist religion to foodstuffs like the potato. In the process, the people of the country now known as Myanmar have developed a rich, complex cuisine that mekes inventive use of easily available ingredients to create exciting flavor combinations.
Salads are one of the best entry points into the glories of this cuisine, with sparkling flavors—crispy fried shallots, a squeeze of fresh lime juice, a dash of garlic oil, a pinch of turmeric, some crunchy roast peanuts—balanced with a light hand. The salad tradition is flexible; Burmese cooks transform all kinds of foods into salads, from chicken and roasted eggplant to spinach and tomato. And the enticing Tea-Leaf Salad is a signature dish in central Burma and in the eastern hills that are home to the Shan people.
Mohinga, a delicious blend of rice noodles and fish broth, adds up to comfort food at its best. Wherever you go in Burma, you get a slightly different version because, as Duguid explains, each region layers its own touches into the dish.
Tasty sauces, chutneys, and relishes—essential elements of Burmese cuisine—will become mainstays in your kitchen, as will a chicken roasted with potatoes, turmeric, and lemongrass; a seafood noodle stir-fry with shrimp and mussels; Shan khaut swei, an astonishing noodle dish made with pea tendrils and pork; a hearty chicken-rice soup seasoned with ginger and soy sauce; and a breathtakingly simple dessert composed of just sticky rice, coconut, and palm sugar.
Interspersed throughout the 125 recipes are intriguing tales from the author’s many trips to this fascinating but little-known land. One such captivating essay shows how Burmese women adorn themselves with thanaka, a white paste used to protect and decorate the skin. Buddhism is a central fact of Burmese life: we meet barefoot monks on their morning quest for alms, as well as nuns with shaved heads; and Duguid takes us on tours of Shwedagon, the amazingly grand temple complex on a hill in Rangoon, the former capital. She takes boats up Burma’s huge rivers, highways to places inaccessible by road; spends time in village markets and home kitchens; and takes us to the farthest reaches of the country, along the way introducing us to the fascinating people she encounters on her travels.
The best way to learn about an unfamiliar culture is through its food, and in Burma: Rivers of Flavor, readers will be transfixed by the splendors of an ancient and wonderful country, untouched by the outside world for generations, whose simple recipes delight and satisfy and whose people are among the most gracious on earth.
Dale Sampson is used to being a nonperson at his small-town Midwestern high school, picking up the scraps of his charismatic lothario of a best friend, Mack. He comforts himself with the certainty that his stellar academic record and brains will bring him the adulation that has evaded him in high school. But when an unthinkable catastrophe tears away the one girl he ever had a chance with, his life takes a bizarre turn as he discovers an inexplicable power: He can regenerate his organs and limbs.
When a chance encounter brings him face to face with a girl from his past, he decides that he must use his gift to save her from a violent husband and dismal future. His quest takes him to the glitz and greed of Hollywood, and into the crosshairs of shadowy forces bent on using and abusing his gift. Can Dale use his power to redeem himself and those he loves, or will the one thing that finally makes him special be his demise? The Heart Does Not Grow Back is a darkly comic, starkly original take on the superhero tale, introducing an exceptional new literary voice in Fred Venturini.
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Half a King: Shattered Sea #1 ($0.99 Kindle), by Joe Abercrombie [Random House] – Named One Of The Best Books Of The Year By Time And The Washington Post; Locus Award Winner
“I swore an oath to avenge the death of my father. I may be half a man, but I swore a whole oath.”
Prince Yarvi has vowed to regain a throne he never wanted. But first he must survive cruelty, chains, and the bitter waters of the Shattered Sea. And he must do it all with only one good hand.
The deceived will become the deceiver.
Born a weakling in the eyes of his father, Yarvi is alone in a world where a strong arm and a cold heart rule. He cannot grip a shield or swing an axe, so he must sharpen his mind to a deadly edge.
The betrayed will become the betrayer.
Gathering a strange fellowship of the outcast and the lost, he finds they can do more to help him become the man he needs to be than any court of nobles could.
Will the usurped become the usurper?
But even with loyal friends at his side, Yarvi finds that his path may end as it began—in twists, and traps, and tragedy.
BONUS: This edition includes an excerpt from Joe Abercrombie’s Half the World.
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Pain, suffering, sorrow, illness, and grief are unavoidable in this world — but God has given us a way to find hope in the rubble of life. Lament is an underground tunnel to hope.
An entire book of the Bible is an exercise in lamenting before the Lord. We have numerous psalms of lament. So, why don’t we lament more in the church today? Why do we put the noise-cancelling headphones over our hearts, keeping ourselves busy to avoid the pain? Let’s not busy ourselves to avoid lamenting; let’s learn to lament well.
Relearning Our Humanity
Of course, we want to avoid suffering, grief, and trauma, but the reality is we can’t. The rippling effects of Adam and Eve gnashing into that fruit still affects us and the world today.
Everyone we know and love will return to the dust. Family members will hear heavy words from their doctor. Great loss will strike dear friends. We will weep. And pretending like we can manage our sufferings on our own won’t help. We weren’t built to handle them. We need the body of Christ — and we need Christ himself, our sympathetic High Priest, the man of sorrows, the one who shouldered our grief.
When we act like we can handle our suffering on our own, we commit idolatry — acting like we are God, capable in ourselves. Lamenting is relearning our humanity. Lamenting is admitting that we can’t handle it, knowing we need God’s power, mercy, and grace. If we could handle our sufferings, we wouldn’t need Jesus, his cross, his power, and his resurrection. Lamenting is how we grieve as those who have hope.
More Than You Can Handle
You’ve heard people say, “God won’t give you more than you can handle.” Wrong. Tucked into this dollar-store saying is a sense of self-reliance: I can make it. I should be able to do this on my own. But Christianity is the abandonment of our self-reliance: “God, I need you!” His power is made perfect in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). For all of our I-can’t-evens, there is our God who can and our Savior who did.
Christianity is picking up our cross, dying with Christ, rising with Christ, living with Christ. Every day is more than we can handle. Without Jesus, we can’t do anything (John 15:5), certainly not bear the unbearable in front of us. We will regularly experience more than we can deal with, which is why we need God to be our refuge, our shelter, our dwelling place. Lament teaches us to uncork our hearts and pour them out to God in faith.
We all are either suffering now or know someone who is. Lamenting is incredibly relevant at this moment. Cancer, death, illness, heartache in our families, betrayal, loss, injustice in the world, personal fears — in all of these dark valleys, God gives us a proven pathway to himself in lament.
What Is Lament?
Lamenting is the honest vocalizations of grief to God. And often within earshot of our brothers and sisters in Christ. Open Lamentations and hear Jeremiah’s vocalizations of suffering, pain, and grief. “Though I call and cry for help, he shuts out my prayer” (Lamentations 3:8). Jeremiah feels like God isn’t listening to him. Today, we’d say, “When I pray, it feels like my requests don’t make it past the ceiling. I pray and I don’t feel anything.” Honest. Uncomfortable. Real.
Moses laments in Psalm 90:13, “O Lord! How long? Have pity on your servants!” He’s not sure how much longer he can hold up. He’s weary. How long do we have to face this? Today, we’d pray, “Lord, how much longer will my friend have to endure this? Please, Lord, in your kindness, bring their wayward child home.” Lament is personal pleading — vocalized emotions and thoughts.
Jeremiah and Moses show us that we lament not just for the sake of getting things off our chest — but for the sake of getting our eyes back on God.
Lament Leads to the Lord
In Lamentations 3, Jeremiah recalls the yet of God’s mercy. “But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in him’” (Lamentations 3:21–24).
Moses remembers the faithful love of the Lord, knowing he can find supernatural joy — a satisfaction that surpasses all understanding — in the midst of his suffering. “Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days. Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us, and for as many years as we have seen evil” (Psalm 90:14–15). We plead with God to satisfy us with himself, the one who gave his only Son for our sins so that by faith in him we might have eternal life.
Biblical laments don’t leave us dangling; they lead us back to the Lord. Satisfaction in the hope of the gospel sustains us in our suffering. We process our pain and recall the steadfast love of the Lord. Remember your crucified and risen Savior. An empty grave serves as a sure tombstone for all your sufferings. One day, in the twinkling of an eye, he will make all things new. The trumpet is being tuned now.
Until then, vocalize your grief to God and rest your hope on him.
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Letting The Freedom Of Truth Uncover The Value Of Life