Friday, February 22, 2019

Book Spotlight: The Chef's Secret by Crystal King


Good morning lovely bookworms, and happy Friday to boot! If you're even 1/16 as happy as I am that this week has finally come to end, I'm sending you a giant mental hug. Whew. This week was rough. On the bright side, I get to end it with a stellar spotlight, of a book that I'm wholly intrigued over. Want to join me?


The Chef's Secret by Crystal King
Adult fiction, Historical Fiction
Atria/Simon & Schuster
352 pages
Release date: Feb 12, 2019
Rated R (for a couple of explicit, but loving, sex scenes (no abuse or rape) and minor curse words)
A captivating novel of Renaissance Italy detailing the mysterious life of Bartolomeo Scappi, the legendary chef to several popes and author of one of the bestselling cookbooks of all time, and the nephew who sets out to discover his late uncle’s secrets—including the identity of the noblewoman Bartolomeo loved until he died.

When Bartolomeo Scappi dies in 1577, he leaves his vast estate—properties, money, and his position—to his nephew and apprentice Giovanni. He also gives Giovanni the keys to two strongboxes and strict instructions to burn their contents. Despite Scappi’s dire warning that the information concealed in those boxes could put Giovanni’s life and others at risk, Giovanni is compelled to learn his uncle’s secrets. He undertakes the arduous task of decoding Scappi’s journals and uncovers a history of deception, betrayal, and murder—all to protect an illicit love affair.

As Giovanni pieces together the details of Scappi’s past, he must contend with two rivals who have joined forces—his brother Cesare and Scappi’s former protégé, Domenico Romoli, who will do anything to get his hands on the late chef’s recipes.

With luscious prose that captures the full scale of the sumptuous feasts for which Scappi was known, The Chef’s Secret serves up power, intrigue, and passion, bringing Renaissance Italy to life in a delectable fashion.
Forty-three days after he first laid eyes upon the most beautiful girl in the world, Bartolomeo had the good fortune to overhear the maids talking about a girl at the palazzo. Two of the serving maids huddled in the pantry near his post where he was prepping nightingales for the cena. When they mentioned the dress she had worn the night before, Bartolomeo realized the principessa was the object of their admiration.
One of the maids was a thin slip of a girl who served the cardinale’s sister. The other was a young woman who had caught his fancy for a time the summer before, but soon bored Bartolomeo with her empty gossip.
“She’s here from Roma,” the first said, awe in her voice. They talked of the girl’s extraordinarily wealthy family, of her famed dressmaker, and of how long it took to wrangle her curls each morning.
When they said her name, Bartolomeo had to put his knife down for fear of cutting himself. Oh, to know her true name! Happiness filled him like a carafe of fine wine. Her name, he thought, was like the taste of strawberries sprinkled with sugar. It was like the summer sun touching the petal of a freshly bloomed flower. That evening, when he gazed out his little garret window, he wished he could shout her name across the rooftops, but he could never say it aloud. To do so was too dangerous, for her and for him. He would take a thousand lashings for his Stella [Author’s note, this is a pet name that Bartolomeo has for her], but he could not bear to have her come to harm.
The next morning, Stella stopped Bartolomeo in the loggia. The sky was bright and the October air was still gentle and warm. He was readying to leave the palazzo to go to market when she approached. He was so startled to see her there he stopped in his tracks, mouth agape.
The princess was radiant in a red velvet gown, her hair piled high upon her head. Her beauty was staggering, her skin so clear, her cheeks ruddy and fresh. What a sight he must seem in comparison, with his own hair a tussle of wild waves, a grease stain adorning one sleeve. He hadn’t bathed, and he was certain he smelled too much like onions and ham.
She recognized his discomfort and giggled, in a way that immediately eased his fear. She gently touched his arm with one hand, and with the other she pressed a piece of paper into his palm. “What is your name?”
He looked around to see who might be witnessing the exchange, but there were only a couple of gardeners in the vicinity, none of whom paid them any mind. “Bartolomeo,” he said, gathering courage.
She released his hand and shared her own name. Bartolomeo’s heart sang as she repeated the word he had been turning over and over in his mind since the day before. 
“Please tell the cook how much I love his tourtes.”
Bartolomeo nodded his head vigorously.  “I will, madonna, I will.”
She dazzled him with another smile. “I liked the radish flower the best, though.”
She winked and turned away. He stood there, staring at the curve of her departing body, wondering what had just happened. He stared until she rounded the corner of the loggia. He was light-headed and it felt like he was spinning, like a little bird on a spit, fire rising all around it. The piece of paper in his hand was small and warm. He hurried out of the palazzo and down the cobbled street lining the adjoining Rio di San Luca canal.

When he was sure no one could see, he stopped and unfolded the little piece of paper.

To follow the tour, please visit Crystal King's page on Italy Book Tours.

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Crystal King is an author, culinary enthusiast, and marketing expert. Her writing is fueled by a love of history and a passion for the food, language, and culture of Italy. She has taught classes in writing, creativity, and social media at several universities including Harvard Extension School and Boston University, as well as at GrubStreet, one of the leading creative writing centers in the US.

A Pushcart Prize–nominated poet and former co-editor of the online literary arts journal Plum Ruby Review, Crystal received her MA in critical and creative thinking from UMass Boston, where she developed a series of exercises and writing prompts to help fiction writers in medias res. She resides in Boston but considers Italy her next great love after her husband, Joe, and their two cats, Nero and Merlin. She is the author of Feast of Sorrow.

Connect with the author: Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook ~ Pinterest ~ Instagram


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FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. I was not monetarily compensated for my opinion.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Graphic Novel Review: Bone Parish, Volume 1 by Cullen Bunn


Media Type: Ebook (ARC)
Title: Bone Parish, Volume 1
   * Series: Bone Parish
Author: Cullen Bunn
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Pages: Paperback; 112
Release Date: May 7, 2019
Source: NetGalley
-------------------------------------
Content Screening: Violence

HDB Rating: 4 Keys to My Heart

Recommended to: Graphic novel readers who are looking for something with dark, science fiction elements.

Add it on: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N
A necromantic horror series about an upstart crime family trafficking in a new designer drug that’s just hit the market made from the ashes of the dead.

A new drug is sweeping through the streets of New Orleans—one made from the ashes of the dead. Wars are being fought over who will control the supply, and the demand is rising. While the various criminal factions collide, users begin to experience terrifying visions of the dead coming back to life...through them. Eisner Award-nominated author Cullen Bunn (Harrow County, The Empty Man) and illustrator Jonas Scharf team up for Bone Parish, a haunting blend of horror and crime that takes an unflinching look at how we connect to—and disconnect from—the world around us.
I'm not going to lie, I picked this up because there was a lot of contention about this graphic novel going around Twitter. Any time that a story has such a polarizing effect on its readers, I need to read it. Plus, I can't deny that the premise of this dark little story intrigued me. It's hard not to be taken in by the idea of a highly potent drug made from the remains of the dead, especially if that designer drug starts to become a currency on its own. I just knew this was going to be a graphic novel I would enjoy, and I was right.

First off, kudos where kudos are due, the artwork in this is absolutely stunning. Dark, gritty, and full of atmosphere, it perfectly matches with the story that unfolds on these pages. As the Winter family fell deeper into the pit that this drug trade was digging for them, I felt like the art kept pace perfectly. Fair warning friends, there are some fairly graphic panels in this book. If you're not a fan of death and dismemberment, you might want to take a pass.

In terms of story, I thought Cullen Bunn did an admirable job of introducing us to this new designer drug and its creators. The storyline was a little jumbled at points, but I still felt like I had a pretty firm hold on the picture at large. I'm kind of an addict for stories like these, where the best laid plans go awry and unforseen consequences abound. Seeing what people do when they're down on the mat is fascinating, and Cullen Bunn definitely doesn't skimp in that department. People are hurt in this book, and some of them even deserve it.


Long story short, I liked this! I'm ready for more.



FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. I was not monetarily compensated for my opinion.

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